Leading and Creating Collaboration in Decentralized Organizations

by Heather M. Caruso, Todd Rogers & Max Bazerman

Overview — No matter how a multi-divisional organization is designed, it will need to find effective ways for its units to spontaneously and responsively cross boundaries. This paper discusses 3 key barriers to collaboration and information-sharing within an organization, and offers 3 strategies to overcome them. Key concepts include:

  • The first barrier is intergroup bias: the systematic tendency to treat one's own group or its members better than another group and its members. Company funding, access to markets, intellectual property rights, and other organizational assets are all potentially scarce resources over which groups may have to, or feel they have to, compete. Recommendation to counteract this barrier: Link group interests to overarching interests.
  • The second barrier is group territoriality expressed through behavior and physical symbols that separate "us" from "them." Territoriality stems from a group's needs for identity, efficacy, and security. Recommendation: Frame collaboration as the solution to group needs.
  • The third barrier consists of poor strategies that members of different organizational divisions use when they negotiate with each other. Errors include the belief in a "fixed pie" in negotiations, the failure to carefully consider the decision processes of one's negotiation partner, and the failure to recognize opportunities for negotiation in the first place. Recommendation: Enable and encourage effective negotiation skills.

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