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True collaboration is a work in progress

The shift to a more remote-friendly world has exacerbated problems we were only just getting to grips in the office environment, as well as adding a few more. From the loss of a casual coffee or brief watercooler chat to disputes over who gets to send the Calendar invite, it is clear this paradigm shift is causing us problems with collaboration. Part of the problem is there is no viable quick fix when it comes to collaboration.

According to InView Champion Theo Kapodistrias, quick fixes are the antithesis to true collaboration. “We don’t have a clear idea of what collaboration is and everyone has a different idea of what it means.”

Like any interaction between two people, collaboration can be messy and difficult, especially when differing personality types and ways of working are added to the mix. It takes time, work and effort to build rapport and create synergy, and it is important that collaboration is an active and honest process.

Kapodistrias believes a back-to-basics approach is best when looking to engineer a collaborative work or team environment. “One of the things that really helps with collaboration is education. What does each part of the business do? We don’t always know what other people do and how they can contribute, which is why they don’t get involved in a project. No one knows what value they can bring to it.

“The top priority is to figure out what each unit of the business does. Is there a way to work with these people to bring better value to the client and to the project? If they’re involved, will their expertise help to provide a good outcome?"

The process of getting to know each business function can be a boon for counsel as making an effort to meet and communicate should go a long way to dispersing the notion of legal as an ivory tower. It can also give legal the ability to issue-spot and ensure every person who needs to be on a project is accounted for.

The second prong of Kapodistrias’ approach is an iterative one. “It is important to be clear as to what collaboration looks like for a project and the people involved. How do we get everyone’s input and make it worthwhile?”

Whether it is weekly stand-ups, Zoom calls or Trello boards with everyone’s tasks laid out, it is crucial the methods proposed incentivize collaboration. “To get stuff done and over the line we tend to rely too heavily on email," says Kapodistrias. "Email is a bad tool for collaborating. Ask yourself, how do we break down those barriers of moving beyond emailing to developing other forms of communication?”

Given legal function's top-down holistic view of a company, Kapodistrias believes legal has a key role to play in facilitating a collaborative environment and should be leading from the front. “We’ve got a role to play in facilitating those interactions; we don’t have to, but we’re well placed to do so. It makes sense for the legal role in the legal sphere to help facilitate that sort of interaction with other business functions.”

Much like any other aspect of business, true collaboration is a highly iterative and effort-driven process - you get out of it what you're prepared to put in. In times like these, when purse strings are tight, taking the time to invest in collaboration could be the low-cost, value-add which takes your business function to a new level.

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