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Good leaders know that collaboration is the most effective way to find things out and get things done.

With such increased mobility and remote working, businesses and individuals are changing the way they engage with the workspace.

“The best indicator of the future is to watch what’s happening around the edges,” says Asia-Pacific business transformation venture Wheretofromhere? cofounder Josie Gibson.

“We’re transitioning to a knowledge economy where the balance is tipping from traditional jobs toward freelancers from a wide range of disciplines.”

With many heralding 2015 as the year of the freelancer, it’s time to sit up and take notice of the move to online. So shed old habits and adopt three savvy strategies in order for your SME to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s very different marketplace.

1. Internal and external workforces

Technology has allowed a growing number of people to work and collaborate from home.

“Your ‘workforce’ may include a mix of freelancers, embedded experts, even customers, who interact with workers in traditional roles on a regular basis,” says Gibson.

Co-working spaces and collaborative hubs are springing up across major urban centres to cater for different ways of working and interacting. Since this line between internal and external is becoming blurred, this has major implications for how organisations are designed and managed, says Gibson.

Few organisations are flexible or adaptable enough to enable genuine collaboration, says Gibson. Smart leaders will recognise that communication skills are vitally important and will give you the ability to build and maintain relationships in both conventional and digital environments, says Gibson. Take time to recognise and address the challenges of working remotely and you will be well on your way.

2. Ramp up your social connectivity  

No longer will the office be a place where you just work, it will be where you ‘live’ as well, encouraging frequent interaction and connection.

“Sophisticated technology gives us unprecedented choice and freedom to collaborate across time and geographies. How well we do that is determined by the maturity of the organisational culture and individual mindsets,” advises Gibson.

Gibson says social media is a fantastic tool for executives, and embraces her global network of contacts making the most of sites such as Google+ and Twitter to share information and ideas.

“It’s shocking so few actively utilise it as part of doing business,” says Gibson. While it’s less important these days to get on a plane to be somewhere, we are social animals and shouldn’t underestimate the face-to-face element for building trust and maintaining relationships, says Gibson.

3. Don’t be afraid to evolve  

If you want to embed a culture of collaboration within the business, this involves fostering an environment built on trust, tolerance of failure, as well as being honest about the organisational blockers – systems, processes, symbols – and tackling them up front, says Gibson.

Effective leadership also requires letting go of key tenets from the industrial era, especially around hierarchy and control, says Gibson.

“We’re now in a volatile, fast-changing world where no one leader can hope to have ‘the answer’. In highly complex situations we may not even be able to identify the problem.

“Good leaders know that collaboration is the most effective way to find things out and get things done.”

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