If anyone’s as hooked as we are on ABC’s night-time soap opera Revenge, you would have noticed an early November ten-minute ad storyline sponsored by Neiman Marcus and Target.

An unlikely duo?  Ever since the announcement in summer 2012, the trades have heralded this as a master-minded “collabapalooza.”  In the first week of the Holiday24 collection, Neiman’s reported some product sell-outs, while Target also basked in the revenue glows.  Even though the high-low collection didn’t garner major door-crashing success pre- and post-event observers talked about mutual benefits:  The luxury retailer gets access to younger customers and a cool and hip moniker, while Tarzhay (pardon our phonetics) once again was paired with upscale stuff.  The partnership, in sum, worked.

Collaboration, in our worlds, doesn’t always experience this kind of positive notoriety.  All too often, we’re faced with a different sort of ‘palooza:  A self-directed rather than a group focus.    Attitudes stuck in the “it’s my function, my business unit” mode.  An unwillingness to share knowledge.  Even an avoidance of conflict.  Instead of working for the common good, goals tend to be personal, with cynicism and suspicion coloring the results. 

Patrick Lencioni pointed to these frequently fatal flaws in his 2002 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  Ten years later, what has changed? 

From our perspective, the change has been driven by the ever-increasing recognition that communications, when paired with human resources, has the power to modify behaviors and mindsets.  In a sense, what the Dallas-Minneapolis retail collection is proving with its unique blend of integrated product and marketing communications.

Making teams work is more than technology, a community intranet, or the latest in software.   Obviously, collaboration starts at the top when leaders share vision and purpose.  But to get at its roots, and embed the practice in employee thinking and actions, the HR-communications combo must listen and voice.  Educate and reinforce.  Reward and recognize.  Only then will we begin to realize what Michael Jordan truly meant.