5 ways to effectively avoid collaboration within your company

February 19, 2019

Luise Freese

Attention: this article contains irony, as of course we don’t want to prevent collaboration, but rather enable it. In the following sections I’ll share decisions and actions that effectively disable collaboration, and therefore should be addressed in your projects.

1. Do we really need that new-fangled “collaboration” stuff? Never change a running system!

How do employees work together if we don’t provide them with a good solution? You’ve probably already guessed it: They send emails. But is email something bad in itself? After all, we’ve (almost) always done it that way and have become used to finding a never-ending stream of emails in our mailboxes every day, and probably everyone has found a way not to get completely drowned in this flood of emails. You also most likely know that younger generations no longer prefer emails but chat solutions. But is that really a reason not to live in your inbox anymore?

If we exclusively considered this fact, it wouldn’t be enough to completely rethink collaboration and define what we need to work well together. However, there are still a few consequences to consider if we do not offer a great collaboration solution:

we force our employees to do non-value-adding work…

…even though we have brought them into the company because of their ability to innovate. Some examples:

  • The search for the right, namely final-final version of that document, the merging of the last changes of different users, etc.
  • In general: They waste time in the search for information because various systems are not integrated

knowledge dies in mailboxes

The reason is information in mailboxes is not evaluated, classified or made available to others. Email favours a culture of silos and hiding information. This means that a sustainable safeguarding of knowledge cannot take place and knowledge must be acquired again and again: “We don’t even know what we know”.

Email isn’t social
Which means that we can‘t network through it. Not only does this have a direct impact on the problem that knowledge really seeps away, but that our work, our talents, our expertise are invisible to everyone who is not our direct colleague.

Daily business eats up potential for growth
We receive notifications about all emails, only very few users switch them off, especially on their smartphones. Why? Just in case, you know?! So, we are in a two-minute rhythm looking at our phone. And this FOMO (fear of missing out) ensures that we only have two minutes to get involved in an idea, a thought, a vision. In turn this leads not only to ineffective work, making more mistakes and taking longer to complete tasks, but also to long-term perspectives falling from our toolset.


2. No Change Management!

Under no circumstances should you care about questions of user adoption, change management, communication and internal marketing. Just move files to SharePoint and mailboxes to Exchange Online. Send users an email to inform them after successful migrations and voilà: Mission accomplished!

If only it was that easy 🙂 Assuming Office 365 is just a technical project doesn’t allow users to succeed. You can’t sufficiently appreciate the importance of change management with Office 365. Here is why:

Ignoring the human side of the technological initiative is a big mistake. Office 365 is not automatically adopted after deployment, but manually with a change in mindset, culture and working behaviour. Our strategy must consider the dynamics of people who drive change and those who are affected by it.

Use cases instead of tools

Office 365 is a mighty toolbox which consists of interlocking tools and services. We need to focus on use cases instead of training the correct use of tools. Especially when we talk about Microsoft Teams the latter doesn’t make sense, because Teams is that nice looking and easy to use interface, that we just lay over all the tools, files and services a user wants to use.


Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If we don’t consider how a company ticks, what is common and what deep convictions or hidden beliefs prevail, we won’t succeed in introducing Office 365. For Example: If it’s common to blame others when they commit an error, it will be very difficult to explain the purpose of sharing files at a very early draft stage.

Culture Eats Strategy

Digital Literacy

We often assume that users are technically savvy. That they are familiar with the handling of their operating system, are proficient in standard Office programs and can also help themselves with small problems. However, the truth is that very few people really know what they are doing and it is our job to accompany them to remain curious and become more inquisitive. With an evergreen system such as Office 365, it will no longer be enough to conduct standard IT training every few years. We must not leave our users alone with the fact that Microsoft is developing its products at an incredible pace, providing new features and interlocking ever more capabilities.

3. Lack of Emotions at work

Emotions? At work? Are you kidding? This is no hippie feel-good talk circle where we dance our names, it’s a workplace!

The future of work is emotional. Unfortunately, most employees are very insecure with determining the “appropriate” level of emotion and personality to bring to work. This in return causes bad decisions, namely suppressing and avoiding emotions to perform professionally. Understanding how we act with colleagues when it comes to collaboration always has potential for conflicts as well as being crucial to all of us. As THE ECONOMIST stated: “In modern business, collaboration is next to godliness” (http://bit.ly/CollaborationIsNextToGodliness). In conclusion, we absolutely need to provide a welcoming space in all workplaces in which utilizing emotions effectively to enhance both communication and collaboration is really appreciated.

4. Not caring about diversity & inclusion

Ok, got itwe will just include photos of smiling so-called diverse workforce members in our annual report and recruiting material!

This won’t fix your company’s problem, that if 10 white male engineers sit in a conference room to innovate, they won’t be able to deliver something that is meaningful and relatable to all kinds of people. Plus: If we renounce people who have a different background/ other experiences/ different expectations than ourselves and if we only surround ourselves with those who are very similar to us then we narrow our perspective and will miss opportunities for personal and professional growth. To me personally, it’s so important to open every exclusive club and make it a very including club. I recently read that on Twitter: “Instead of creating circles, which are closed and fixed, create U’s, which are open”(http://bit.ly/InclusionWithU). 


5. No Teams Goals!

We need to measure the success of every single employee; it would be unfair if we focus on the team!

If we want to foster a culture of collaboration, we need to understand the nature of collaboration. The DNA of collaboration is shared vision, understanding and responsibility for the goals, that we wish to be achieved. It’s not about competition (“I can only reach my goal if you don’t reach your goal”), cooperation (“we work together in harmony with different goals”), or helpfulness — which is only desirable social behaviour but not collaboration nor cooperation at all. Collaborations means that we need to achieve our goals together. If the company insists on individual goals, they prevent that mind shift from “me” to “we”. 



It takes more than just tools to transform a company into a collaborating network which is able and ready to lead an industry. You can’t always throw technology solutions at people problems. Before you try, remember to avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Not providing a common platform for collaboration
  2. No change management!
  3. Discouraging emotions at work
  4. Being apathetic toward diversity & inclusion
  5. Not setting team goals as opposed to individual goals

Collaboration means two-way communication!

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