The Power of Collaboration, and A Chocolate Chip Cookie

Collaboration – whether we realize it or not – has been a driving factor in the development of human civilization.  From the first hunter-gatherer societies, use of skills have been exchanged to benefit the community as a whole. Some individuals might be better at hunting, others at gathering and foraging, and others at taking care of the homes, the children and the elderly.  Our ancestors began to form groups beyond the immediate family to take on bigger tasks that individually would be impossible. From when cooperation allowed the caveman to take down a mastodon, to the development of the assembly line, collaboration has pushed society to where we are today.

Take the example of a chocolate chip cookie.  Today, most people would simply go out and buy a chocolate chip cookie, but it’s relatively easy to make chocolate chip cookies.  Mix some ingredients, place the cookie dough on the tray and bake it for a set amount of time at a set temperature. It’s easy, right?  But do any of us really know how to make a chocolate chip cookie?

How is the flour made?  What about the chocolate chips and the sugar?  How about the oven, or the electricity or gas that fuels the oven?  Serving each other with specialized skills has enabled society to develop faster and stronger than we could have had the exchange of skills and ideas stagnated in early human civilization.  One group makes the flour, another the power, another delivers the power, another makes the oven and another bakes the cookies – and so on and so on.

Whether you’re working as part of a team in your company or studying with a group to prepare for an exam, working with others can be more effective than than working on your own.  Communicating ideas to others helps reinforce those ideas internally, and the exchange of ideas helps the group as a whole perform better than the sum of its parts could perform individually.  With technology and communication, the modern economy creates opportunities that we can’t even imagine. Air BnB, Uber, Unix, Intuit, Xero, HubDoc, Receipt Bank, YouTube, Amazon, Shopify and many, many more organizations all use collaboration to create opportunities that previously did not exist.

When I was just starting off, I took a lot of inspiration from a lot of sources.  Perhaps the most inspiring when it came to collaboration was Joi Ito and the success he’s had with the Safecast project (blog.safecast.org).  In summary, following the Fukushima disaster, he found that information about the repercussions of the event was not flowing fast enough, and could not be verified – so he did something about it.  Below is the TED Talk that inspired me:

When you collaborate, you are able gain the knowledge of the people you’re working with in addition to your own.  People are able to work together on a project at the same time and and develop ideas and strategies that might not appear individually.  Communicating using tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts and combining that with an effective sharing system such as Google Drive, Smart Vault or Microsoft One Drive ensures people are on the same page, and if you manage meetings and expectations well, projects can proceed quite quickly and the outcomes can be even more effective than originally imagined.

At KATA Accounting Solutions, we try to take a collaborative approach in many of the things we do.  Even though we may not be in the same city (or province or even country), we use technology to communicate and collaborate on whatever project we’re working on.  From preparing a corporate tax return with the customer to creating and implementing an accounting ecosystem, we have found that the collaborative approach works very well.

This is not our idea, it has been pioneered by many organizations before us.  Toyota and it’s Genchi Genbutsu concept (the idea of getting down into the real place where real things are done) has helped them work with suppliers to improve the quality of product the suppliers are delivering.  We work with our customers in the same way – and we’ve had great success with it. Several bookkeeping companies that KATA works with have been extremely complimentary about our approach. More importantly, it has provided the bookkeepers with a better understanding of how we think and what our expectations are.  This has allowed them to go back to their clients and repair issues and implement processes that provide better data faster, allowing the customers to use the data in their financial ecosystems to develop more efficient processes, automate and manage their companies and time better.

At KATA Accounting, the plan is to continually develop these processes with a few key factors always kept in mind:

  1. Save time – we all have a limited amount of it and we don’t know how much we have.  A business owner’s time is better spent managing their business than operating it or doing bookkeeping.
  2. Education – the more we learn about the customer, the better we can serve them.  Similarly, the better the customer understands the importance and techniques behind the bookkeeping, the better data they can provide us – and in the end, themselves.
  3. Technology – the more we leverage automation provided by technology, the less opportunity there is for human error.  The more we collaborate and communicate with customers, the better we can serve them. The more we go paperless, the better record-keeping systems and documentation can become.

At KATA Accounting, we want to be a part of your team.  We want you to send us an e-mail or pick-up the phone and call us when you have a question we might be  able to help with. We want you to have good financial data so you can do what you do best – run your business.

Come collaborate with us!

Below are a couple more TED Talks about collaboration that will help reinforce just how forcefully collaboration will change the world: