The new year brings with it exciting prospects for all businesses. For some, 2014 may represent a clean slate to create fresh business opportunities. For others, it could signify the dawn of influential trends that will reshape the way business is done.

Looking forward to 2014, it is clear that gaining a competitive advantage over other firms has become quite a challenge. The edge earned through the release of new products and services into the market can easily be eroded once competitors start providing better offerings. The key to a sustainable competitive advantage that will lead to better overall business performance is a strong corporate culture (Mahrokian et al., 2010). The crucial question remains: what kind of culture will fulfil this criteria?

The fast pace at which business is conducted has trivialised the need for teamwork, to the point where work relationships are treated as purely transactional. People do not bother investing time and effort into relationships with their colleagues, simply focusing on getting things done as quickly as possible. The greatest irony is that close collaboration can actually lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness. As such, a culture where relationships are emphasised as part of the work process will provide a sustainable competitive advantage in the face of stiff competition (Lencioni, 2002).

The following Organisation Development (OD) experts have ideal organisational practices to build mutual understanding and trust so as to increase collaborative efforts within any organisation:

Amy Edmondson, Teaming: How Organisations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy

Teaming identifies factors— such as “interpersonal fear, irrational beliefs about failure, groupthink, and information hoarding”—that prevent teams from learning naturally. Leaders can influence these factors by promoting reflection, establishing psychological safety, and reducing defensive interpersonal dynamics that ultimately restrain idea sharing.

Jody Hoffer Gittell, Relational Coordination

Relational coordination is “coordinating work through relationships of shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect, supported by frequent, timely, accurate, problem-solving communication.” It goes beyond “the management of interdependence between tasks” to the “management of interdependence between the people who perform those tasks”.

Bill Isaacs, Dialogue: Art of Thinking Together

Isaacs, the founder of Dialogos, espouses dialogue as one of the fundamentals of true partnership; the inability to conduct successful dialogue will result in problems between managers and employees, or worse, between companies or departments. PACE will be partnering with Dialogos to design OD solutions that will change the way people think and work together.

Lily Cheng, Real Conversations

Cheng is the founder and CEO of PACE. She is currently working on a new book, Real Conversations, which revolves around the importance of having honest, authentic conversations. This book focuses on building up the conviction and competencies for individuals to carry out real conversations.