How to collaborate smarter in government

Government work is collaborative in nature, but systemic gaps and organisational silos can stop us from being able to work together effectively. Peter Bradd, the DTA’s first co-Lab ‘thinker in residence’, explains how a particular mindset can help create bridges to faster digital transformation and success.

Caption: Peter Bradd speaking at the opening of the Sydney co-Lab.

There is a man in the Amazon who lives alone on 31 square miles of protected land. He’s the last man remaining from his tribe and one of a handful of examples I can find of people who truly live ‘off the grid’ and have no use for collaboration in their lives.

Since the agricultural revolution, humans have learned to collaborate better and adopt new innovations to enhance scientific advancement, improve our standard of living and enable meaningful progress. Collaboration has been, and will continue to be, largely enabled by our long held understanding that working together will help us more than working individually.

Most of us collaborate every day without even thinking about it. We rely on systems and cultural norms to help us function smoothly as a society, which helps us collaborate using ‘default’ or unconscious thinking, such as interacting with a bus driver and other passengers when travelling to work. But what about its role in conscious transformative change?

Collaboration opens us to the ‘new’

When we talk about digital transformation and innovation, what we mean is the concept of applying something ‘new’ to ‘us’. There’s no fixed sense of who ‘us’ is — it can be new to world, new to sector, new to organisation or new to person, and is often applied to 4 key areas of focus: processes, operating models, products or services, and communications or marketing.

But what leads to ‘new’? Fundamentally, it is driven by creativity, which is itself made up of 4 elements: fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. Collaborating significantly contributes to these elements, thereby enhancing creativity and the opportunity to develop ‘new’. It adds fluency by including more people and therefore more ideas; flexibility and originality by including more people and therefore more cognitive diversity; and elaboration, through building on the ideas of others. Without all of these elements, particularly true collaboration, you can’t have innovation and digital transformation.

The secret ingredients of successful collaboration

Peter Drucker (described as the founder of modern management) is quoted as saying that ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ But let’s explore the question, how do we measure collaboration?

Google’s famous Project Aristotle study, which tracked 180 teams to identify factors leading to high performing teams, found the number one influencer on collaboration is psychological safety, described as a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.

Collaboration may be fundamental to government, but its through the application of ‘new’ to our work, and consideration of the importance of diversity, equal participation, and psychological safety that we can collectively achieve true digital transformation and innovation.

Learn more at Peter’s co-Lab workshops

Peter Bradd will be running 2 free workshops in our Sydney co-Lab over September:

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