Ever own an ant farm growing up? If you did—or if you’ve seen just about any nature special on TV—you know that the dedicated specialization of an ant colony is a sight to behold. Our own evolutionary path would be very different without the power of collaboration that’s found virtually everywhere in the natural world.
Your office, though, might be another story. While the vogue for collaborative tools and workspaces is still in full force, so is the chorus of detractors who argue that too much interconnectedness makes for more distraction than anything else. And when it comes to certain kinds of tasks, that’s frequently true. But the outcomes of our work, more broadly speaking, more often benefit from team effort.
It doesn’t matter how smart or savvy we are when it comes to technology, product development, or any single skill we possess. Nobody succeeds for long in a silo. Whatever our ventures—personal, professional, philanthropic, political, or private—we can’t forget all the people who are involved in and essential to our success.
That’s something that highly successful people know and internalize. We can simply learn more and apply new insights better when we put our proverbial heads together. According to a survey conducted by Piirus, a staggering 91% of academic researchers agreed that collaboration increases research impact, and 94% were interested in interdisciplinary collaboration. Those who succeed learn from their mistakes and from the people around them. What’s more, they don’t forget it’s impossible to anticipate who they may inspire or influence, or who may wind up inspiring them—that today’s stranger may be tomorrow’s partner. Here are five reasons why the most successful people are top-notch collaborators.
When decision making and risk taking are shared among a group of people striving toward the same goal, it’s typically easier to achieve the optimal outcome faster. When we share our efforts and knowledge with others, we create communities that can rally around a good idea and rush in to question a bad one before it goes awry.
Of course, as any anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or schoolteacher can tell you, groups sometimes make terrible decisions together. But as long as their cultures are strong and democratic in spirit, the interconnections among individuals generally help expose ideas to analysis and criticism. Perspectives we wouldn’t have encountered otherwise can emerge and cross-pollinate. Growth becomes collective rather than cloistered.
As the philosopher David Hume famously wrote, “Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow.”
Despite different circumstances, we can still find mutual alignment.;