We spend a lot of time in this industry talking about collaboration between manufacturers and retailers. We expound on the benefits of retailers and suppliers working together, strengthening the links of the "value chain" and ultimately serving the customer better, faster, more efficiently.
And while there is no doubt that these are necessary pursuits, it strikes me that we should also look within our own organizations when exploring the concept of "collaboration" in its purest meaning.
How well do your marketing folks work with their merchandising counterparts? Does IT play well with others? Does your organization regularly assemble and employ cross-functional teams to tackle large-scale projects?
Or does a quick self-assessment show that, much like the industry as a whole, many of our own organizations have some work to do in breaking down internal organizational silos.
In "Creating a Culture of Innovation" (p.18), Lisa Gundry, director of DePaul University's Center for Creativity and Innovation, challenges leaders to encourage workers at all levels to interact with one another. Cross-pollination of ideas is critical, Gundry explains, "To get the best ideas, you've got to have a lot of ideas."
Like any other desired change in corporate culture, the impetus for internal collaboration must come from the top. Stay focused on the value chain, for ultimately it serves the customer.
But don't forget to foster that same notion of collaboration internally, because all of the complex management theory in the world still doesn't override the values of "team" and "leadership."