Working in Union: Why collaboration counts

Posted: May 28th, 2020

Words: Karen André

Collaboration is a cornerstone of our culture. Not just us as an agency – us as a species. Human ability to work together, collaborate and share information has allowed us to achieve the stuff of dreams – leaving footprints on the moon, exploring the depths of the oceans, the global eradication of smallpox, and of course, Brazil’s 7-1 defeat against Germany in 2014.

We are inherently social beings because throughout our history, we’ve always achieved more by working together. And that’s more true today than it ever has been.

As our industry matures and skill sets become increasingly specialised, effective collaboration is even more important if we’re to continue to create powerfully impactful ideas that effect change for our clients.

Furthermore, organisations and teams that collaborate well are much more likely to be financially successful, more culturally aligned, and have higher staff engagement rates – good news for our business and our clients too. And that’s just the tip of the lettuce.

5 reasons to embrace collaboration

It makes us more efficient. When the project is complex and demanding, we have to be able to ask for help to divide up a heavy workload, find creative solutions to tough problems, and wrap our heads around the big picture.

It helps with problem solving. Finding solutions demands diversity of thought. Pooling knowledge, skills, and expertise to debate solutions is a great way to see projects from new angles, with new insights, and new solutions.

It’s a learning experience. Teams that collaborate learn from each other—their mistakes, successes, failures, pain points, priorities, and even the way they think. Learning from colleagues is not just a benefit of collaboration, it starts a conversation about workplace culture centred around learning and development too.

It builds trust. As connections are made between teams and departments, people naturally trust each other more, which works wonders for boosting morale. And this then forms its own positive feedback loop: the higher your company’s morale, the more comfortable your team will feel about working alongside each other to challenge convention, effect change and drive innovation.

It keeps us connected. Especially important when we’re working apart. We want to work with people we trust, who understand and respect our points of view, and who work well with others. Simply put, working collaboratively makes this possible because it lays the foundation for a more open, connected, and engaged workplace.

Clearly, collaboration makes good business sense. But it doesn’t always just happen by itself – it takes encouragement, learning and practice. With this in mind, I asked some of my closest collaborators from the across the Union team to share their top tips for making collaboration work.

Our top 10 tips for effective collaboration

Be clear. Roles need to be very clearly defined and agreed upon at the outset of the collaboration.

Show Respect. Recognise each individual in the team – the unique insights and expertise they bring to the table, and their boundaries, workloads, and other commitments.

Create conversations. Ongoing dialogue is essential to keep moving towards shared goals. Regular, quick huddles ensure that everyone is on the same page and foster open communication where new ideas can be raised without fear of judgement.

Actively listen. By the nature of our jobs, we want to offer solutions – but don’t just wait for others to stop talking so you can dazzle everyone with your own brilliant ideas. When other people speak, hear them out. Listen.

Build Trust. The whole team needs to feel comfortable that they can rely and be relied upon by their colleagues. Crucially, everybody needs to do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it.

Set team goals. Come together as a team to outline objectives and make actionable goals. This gives everyone a purpose and strengthens accountability because everyone has a stake in the team’s effort.

Balance team and individual. Some things are better tackled in smaller groups, and some tasks are more effectively completed by one person. So work lean when it makes sense to!

Continually Adapt. It takes a bit of experimentation to figure out which tools and practices work best for your team or project, so allow your processes to adapt over time. And technology won’t solve all your problems – but a sturdy strategy will.

Acknowledgment. People need a degree of autonomy to feel valued. So encourage creative thinking, don’t judge ideas prematurely, evaluate the ideas rather than the contributor, and recognise the contribution of every collaborator.

Call out people who aren’t all in. But do it constructively, sensitively, and in private. Most people feel vulnerable when they’re sharing their ideas – if they get put on the defensive, they’re not going to open up.

If you’d like to chat about how collaborating with us could help with your next project, drop me an email at

“ At the Union, we’re a happy collective of five agencies, each with our own specialisms and areas of expertise, that love to collaborate. ”

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