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There’s a contradiction at the heart of modern collaboration.

“Collaborative Intelligence is information that can diagnose problems in your organization, like which teams aren’t working well together or who’s overloaded with work,” says Rebecca Hinds, Ph.D., Head of The Work Innovation Lab by Asana.


If you ask Rebecca Hinds, Ph.D., how we collaborate at work, she boils it down to two essential realities.

“We have entirely too much collaboration,” says Hinds, Head of The Work Innovation Lab, a think tank by Asana, “And in some cases, we still don’t have nearly enough collaboration.”

How can there be too much collaboration and not enough? The pandemic created a hybrid workforce of millions. Many of us work from home and in the office on other days. This seachange is one cause of this contradiction.

Another cause of this inconsistency? The glut of apps companies adopted in the past few years. Think about how many apps you use in 2023 and how many you used in 2018. Many of those new apps have similar functions but aren’t connected correctly. If the apps aren’t connected—how can the people be?

Those are just a few ways collaboration has become too much of a good thing in some parts of the job, while in other parts of work, the lines of communication have gone silent. These days, you might over-communicate with people on your team while under-communicating with teams across your organization—since you can no longer “bump” into coworkers at the watercooler.

The answer to how cross-functional teams can work together in this new age may lie in the study of Collaborative Intelligence, the focus of Hinds and The Work Innovation Lab. 

“Collaborative Intelligence is insight about how you and your teams work,” Hinds explains. “It’s information that can diagnose problems in your organization, like which teams aren’t working well together or who’s overloaded with work.”

Watch Asana Forward.

Hinds shared her Collaborative Intelligence research at Asana Forward on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. At the event, which was a blend of thought leadership and product news, leaders at Asana customer companies like Amazon Web Services, Morningstar, Zoom, Live Nation, and T-Mobile shared how they think about collaboration and their best practices for it.

Ahead of Asana Forward, Hinds spoke with The Workback about the idea of Collaborative Intelligence and how business leaders can use it to guide their teams to more substantial, effective collaboration. 

You say employees have found themselves with too many tools, creating “collaboration overload.” How do leaders who have adopted these tools for their teams alleviate tool overload and still hit their goals?

The first step is acknowledging that too much collaboration drags productivity. Leaders need to get out of the mindset that more collaboration is better and recognize the dangers of too much collaboration.

Our research partners and I explore this topic in this Harvard Business Review article, and essentially, employees are overwhelmed with the collaborative demands of their work. The competing priorities are causing them to burn out. 

One experiment conducted by The Work Innovation Lab changed the behavior of 93% of participants, making them much more intentional about collaboration. What does this indicate? 

It tells us that Collaborative Intelligence is valuable for employees, and they should have access to it. Giving them access to information on how effectively or ineffectively they collaborate enables them to self-direct better collaboration. 

Although managers and leaders still have a role, empowering all levels of an organization with Collaborative Intelligence reduces the need to micromanage and encourages employees to participate in the solution actively.

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Barriers to communication—information silos—have risen as more teams have worked remotely. How does Collaborative Intelligence help remove those barriers? 

Often, silos are invisible. Collaborative Intelligence helps remove those invisible barriers. Silos lead to delays, confusion, missed opportunities, and overlooked mistakes.

Moreover, with distributed work, we’ve seen silos across different teams grow at many organizations, making Collaborative Intelligence even more critical.

Ultimately, Collaborative Intelligence enables leaders to make silos more visible and understand which silos are most important to squash. Connecting siloed teams only becomes possible if you realize there’s a disconnect in the first place.