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Collaboration: Achieving more together
Optimize Operations
10 October, 2022 by

Elbow mentality was yesterday. Anyone who wants to be successful today relies more on working together instead of against each other. One way to achieve this is through collaborative teamwork. Find out what's behind it and why you, as a shared mobility provider, should focus more on it.

A new mindset for better results

A few centuries ago, there were still people who knew everything that humankind had accumulated in terms of knowledge at that time - so-called universal scholars. Today's level of knowledge has become too great for that. And it continues to grow: In the middle of the 20th century, it took around 50 years for all of humanity's knowledge to double. Today, this duration is estimated at less than 100 days.

Universal scholars and generalists are therefore no longer to be found today, but instead numerous specialists in a limited field. In the world of work, this means that individuals cannot solve all problems on their own and can handle all tasks without help, but must repeatedly draw on the knowledge and skills of others.

For example, you are running a carsharing service in a small town when suddenly the Corona pandemic breaks out. You alone cannot know what measures you should take to protect the health of your customers and employees - after all, your area of expertise is shared mobility and not the prevention of infections. So look for an appropriate expert with whom you can work out a suitable strategy for action. This could be, for example, an employee of the public health department, a consultant with a medical background, or an employee of the city administration who always knows the current legal requirements. Or you can exchange ideas with other providers who are ultimately in the same situation.

Fortunately, it doesn't happen every day that a new pandemic breaks out. However, the unforeseen is likely to hit you on a daily or at least weekly basis - even if it may not always make as big a splash as a global health crisis. The world and individual industries are changing fast, and there's no sign of that pace slowing down any time soon.

However, it is not only unpredictable and extraordinary events that require a new mindset. But also in the case of plannable and everyday tasks, you may reach the limits of your personal expertise more often than would have been the case a few years ago. 

To keep up with the complex and constantly changing environment, you need new forms of collaboration and new models of thinking. Blinkers that prevent you from looking left and right won't get you anywhere, nor will an elbow mentality of "you versus them." By acknowledging that the expertise of you and your team has limits, you open yourself up to a world of new possibilities. 

Targeted collaboration on individual tasks with people and teams that complement your own expertise leads to a win-win-win for everyone involved. And it broadens your own horizons, which will also enrich you in the long term. The keyword here is collaboration - learning it will help you achieve better and possibly faster results. 

What collaboration means…

For a long time, the term "collaboration" had a negative connotation, especially in Germany. After all, it was used for a long time primarily in reference to World War II and meant working together with the enemy during the war or occupation. This meaning is now outdated and the term is increasingly used in a more value-free way. Today, collaboration generally means ideational or intellectual cooperation.

Collaboration is closely related to cooperation - and yet different. Cooperative work usually aims at a specific result. Collaborative work, on the other hand, focuses on the process that leads to the result. It's about actually working and learning together, not just dividing up work. 

The latter is what often happens in a cooperative effort: The overall task is broken down into several subtasks, for each of which individual people or teams are then responsible. A person or a team thus always pursues a sub-task and can work on their tasks in parallel without having to know each other personally at all.

In a collaboration, participants work synchronously on a task and pursue a common overall goal. Collaborative work often arises spontaneously and is characterized by being self-organized, self-responsible, interest-driven, and temporary. It may not be appropriate for every phase of a work process, nor is it inherently better than cooperation. Rather, it is always important to recognize when collaborative work is appropriate or even necessary to achieve the best possible results.

                      ...and what it offers

                      Unlike in a cooperation, you do not work on tasks one after the other or side by side within a collaboration, but together. The results thus reflect different perspectives, experiences and competencies. A space is created in which ideas are expressed more quickly and, if necessary, taken up and further developed. The fact that feedback loops are eliminated and questions can be answered directly also increases the efficiency of collaboration.

                      Another advantage of collaboration is the high degree of transparency. All participants are always up to date due to the close exchange. This leads to fewer so-called "knowledge silos" - i.e. situations in which knowledge is only available to one person or one team and is not shared beyond that in the company.

                      In addition, a collaborative way of working trains the soft skills of your team members. After all, this requires open, respectful and goal-oriented communication. The participants have the chance to test and improve their skills in this regard. Since everyone pulls together and pursues the same goal, this also strengthens team spirit and a sense of togetherness - within a team or even beyond. 

                      The practical thing about collaboration is also that it doesn't have to be planned well in advance, but can basically start immediately. It's up to you to decide exactly how you want to organize the collaboration. You are flexible in terms of content, time and personnel.

                      Where shared mobility providers win by collaborating

                      In general, collaboration can take place within a team as well as across teams or disciplines or even across companies. The choice of whether and with whom you want to collaborate is made for each task according to the required competencies.

                      In-house ways of collaboration 

                      As a shared mobility provider, it makes sense to collaborate in-house in the following areas, for example:

                      Marketing: If you want to define a new target group and develop a strategy for addressing them and adapting your offering accordingly, different points of view will help you. Employees from different departments bring different perspectives, knowledge and experience with regard to the shared mobility market. Therefore, collect and discuss ideas and starting points not only within the marketing team, but also beyond. This maximizes the basis on which you derive a relevant target group for your offering. Ultimately, the result affects not only the work of the marketing team, but also the entire company.

                      Product testing: Let's assume that your shared mobility offering is only a business unit within your company, as is the case with an energy provider, for example. You can actively use this state to further develop and improve your service. Ask people outside the mobility department to test your sharing offering and give you feedback. Together, you can come up with ideas on how to optimize your offering. As part of the Mobility department, you are deep in the subject and may overlook aspects that outsiders quickly notice. Take advantage of the fact that you don't even have to leave your company for an "outsider's view" and deepen the collaboration between individual departments.

                      Customer service: Shared mobility offerings are usually quite complex, so that individual employees can hardly know everything. Especially when it comes to helping customers quickly, a collaborative attitude within the team is indispensable. Employees in customer service can ask each other questions without much detour, draw on the knowledge and experience of others, or pass on a ticket to a colleague with the necessary knowledge. The common goal is satisfied customers - the way to achieve this is through close exchange within the team.

                      Collaborating outside your own company

                      In addition, there are numerous situations in shared mobility in which you can seek collaboration with partners outside your own company. This is the case, for example, with regard to the provider of your mobility platform. In order to be able to develop it further in the interests of its customers, it is dependent on regular, constructive feedback. Don't view this exchange merely as a space to make demands and express wishes. Instead, focus on the unifying effort to give more people easy access to shared mobility and to build a profitable business model from it.

                      You also share the ambition to contribute to the transformation of mobility with your municipality as well as with public transport. So it's worth opening up the space for collaboration here - because a common goal is perhaps the most important basis for collaborative working. Share existing barriers and opportunities and develop joint strategies. Shared mobility offerings should not and cannot replace other environmentally friendly ways of getting around, such as walking, biking, buses, trains and cabs, but rather complement them. And to ensure that the interfaces for users are as seamless as possible, local decision-makers should not just cook their own soup, but should regularly come together around a (virtual) table.

                      By the way, you can also invite other providers to this table. After all, the basic idea of collaboration is to disregard competitive thinking. Approaches to collaboration include joint marketing activities, a joint app that allows users to select the most suitable offer, joint mobility stations, or the pure exchange of experiences. 

                      Collaboration within networks and associations

                      A good example is also the Thüga Group, the largest German network of municipal energy and water service providers. Through the Thüga Innovation Platform, all Thüga partners benefit from active support from the network as they develop, roll out and operate their shared mobility projects. 

                      The same applies to Dörpsmobile - an initiative to promote e-car sharing in rural areas of Schleswig-Holstein. Interested communities and associations are advised by the network's coordination office and supported step by step in setting up their own service. If they have any questions, they can draw on the knowledge and experience of the entire network.

                      And the Bundesverband Carsharing e. V. (bcs) also relies on close collaboration with its members. The association is always ready to support and advise providers in their concerns. It organizes internal and external events and promotes networking within the association and beyond.

                      First steps towards more collaboration in your company

                      If you are now motivated to put a greater focus on collaboration in the future and don't know how to get started, rest assured: for now, just keep working the way you have been. You don't need to turn existing processes inside out overnight. Instead, collaboration is primarily a mindset that is allowed to evolve over time.

                      The following steps will help you along the way:

                      1. Create the technical infrastructure to be able to collaborate digitally as well - this is especially important if your collaboration partners are not from your company and may be located elsewhere.

                      2. Before each meeting, ask yourself who should be present. Whose input and what information do you need to fulfill the goal of the meeting? Think of representatives from different areas rather than specific people. Maybe you need someone from marketing, someone from customer service, and someone from product development. Which person from these teams attends the meeting is secondary. Afterwards, they will inform the rest of the team members about the outcomes of the meeting. If parts of a meeting are not relevant to everyone present, they can leave it early or you can outsource relevant topics to another meeting. 

                      3. Always pay more attention to the overall goal than to the way a task is accomplished. It is important that you define goals as well as clear responsibilities. Less important, however, is how a goal is to be achieved. In this way, you open the space for creativity and, if necessary, collaboration. What can additionally help is to divide an overall task into several subtasks. 

                      4. Dare to think more in terms of roles and less in terms of hierarchical positions on a temporary and topic-related basis. Depending on how your organization is structured, this may be unfamiliar at first. However, collaborative working requires that you work on a task in a team on one level and make decisions together. 

                      5. At regular intervals, take the time to reflect on what is going well and what is going or has gone less well. Look for possible reasons, blockers or dependencies and discuss them with your employees or partners in order to find solutions. Stay curious and dare to question the old and try out the new. 

                                      Successful collaboration may be easy

                                      Hopefully, what you have learned so far is that collaboration is worthwhile at all levels. And that you don't have to do everything differently, but can make a big difference with just a few small steps. There are tasks that you do not have to master alone. Trust that you can only win through collaboration with colleagues and partners - and allow yourself to adapt your mindset and your work processes accordingly.

                                      Finally, we share our key success factors on the road to more collaboration:

                                      • Work together in an interdisciplinary way as well - you can only learn from each other.

                                      • Put the focus on a common end result.

                                      • Reflect on yourself and your collaboration regularly.

                                      • Take ownership within an equal collaboration.

                                      • Think more in terms of "we" and less in terms of "I."

                                      What are your experiences regarding collaboration inside and outside your company? We look forward to receiving your message at 

                                      MOQO 10 October, 2022
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