Autonomous collaboration might sound like an oxymoron, but you’ll see it is exactly the kind of team mentality that will help your team get ahead. Let’s take a look first at collaboration.

What is collaboration?

Collaboration in the workplace is not just a corporate buzzword. It’s a fact for any company that wants to succeed. Teams that collaborate can bring together different perspectives and levels of expertise that will improve problem solving. But they also have a greater sense of purpose, as every team member participates equally and brings in a unique point of view into the team.

Companies that truly value collaboration (as opposed to simply paying lip service to it) will enjoy greater levels of commitment from their team members, since most employees actually want to feel like they are contributing to the well being of the company. 

So collaboration is great both for the results it has for the company, and employee engagement. But how can you get to autonomous collaboration?

What does it mean to be autonomous?

Being autonomous in your daily work is an absolutely necessary factor of job satisfaction. In fact, psychologists have found that the less control someone has over her job, the more stressful and unsatisfying she finds it.

This might be because the less autonomy we have in our work, the less responsible we feel for the quality of our work. Autonomy is also connected to lower employee turnover and increased happiness and motivation at work. Of course, your company culture will play a big role in the degree of autonomy your team members receive.

Autonomy implies a certain level of trust and a lack of strict oversight, even at the lower levels of  the company. A great example of this would be a results-oriented work environment, where team members can work wherever and whenever they want, as long as it gets done and it provides results for the company.

How do the two come together?

Autonomous collaboration means that your team gets to experience all the creative benefits of collaboration without depending on each other to get the work done. This eliminates bottlenecks from the collaboration process, because team members don't need to wait on each other to get things done.

There is a certain level of independence that is maintained, even though everyone has access to the knowledge funds of the whole team. Team members are still counting on each other’s knowledge, expertise and support. Collaboration is there to help each team member succeed, but autonomy takes precedence in the day to day work.

It’s important to note that autonomous collaboration only works under the assumption that every team member is working for bettering the company, and not to further their own agenda.

Why autonomous collaboration?

Autonomous collaboration loosens the constraints that traditional collaboration often imposes. For example, team members can work wherever and whenever they want or is convenient for them, because they can work independently.

However, for team members to be able to work independently, they need to be able to understand what kind of independent work others are doing. That’s one reason why we encourage you to embrace a morning huddle with your team members, so that everyone is familiar with the independent efforts of other team members - even if it's just a quick one on Skype.

Working in a cooperative yet autonomous environment can have a positive impact on job satisfaction. If your team is mostly on the autonomous side, have them brainstorm a solution for a project together this week. If your team is mostly cooperative, try to have at least one day of quiet, independent work this week.

Ultimately, when team members work well independently as well as in a group, they enhance each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Is your team more autonomous or more collaborative? Share your stories with us in the comments below!