Collective competence: A new (-ish) perspective on building great teams in organisations

why collective competence is important in healthcare and in several organisations

A shift from focusing on individual competence to building a team’s competence is a great strategy to meet the increasing needs of the current workplace environments in the new normal. Within this article, you will learn why collective competence should be a strategy that all organisations should embrace.

Organisations go to a lot of trouble to ensure they have the best staff possible.

They develop proactive recruitment strategies to identify excellent candidates, offer competitive employment packages to attract the best individuals and rigorously evaluate the applicants. Once hired, staff are encouraged and supported to develop and enhance their skills.

However, while hiring the best people and further developing their capacity and capability is a great way to assemble a team of champions, it doesn’t guarantee the outcome will be a champion team.

This is a significant issue for organisations whose products or services depend on teams of people working well together.

It’s now becoming clear that no matter how highly skilled its members are, the team needs to develop collective competence to make a champion team.

What is collective competence?

First defined in the late 1990s, collective competence refers to how a group of individuals work together to perform a task. It’s about how individuals interact, exchanging their experiences, knowledge and perceptions to develop a shared meaning for the actions or tasks the group members contribute to.

But collective competence isn’t something that just happens. Indeed, most of our social, educational and organisational structures work against the development of collective competence. Normally, we educate, train and assess individuals; we employ, performance manage and reward individuals. We work in silos, protect our professional territory and promote deconstructed, modular approaches over systems-based thinking.

Collective competence: Moving from individual to collaborative expertise

Organisations that want to develop the collective competence of their teams need to facilitate and drive the process by encouraging an active, deliberate exchange of information between team members through structured conversations.

This information exchange enables team members to function in their individual roles with an awareness of each other – in terms of their respective skills and knowledge – and an understanding of their work system.

When organisations improve their communication standards, teams are better aligned across departments, reducing chaos and frustration.

Moreover, working as a team not only drives greater productivity but also fosters healthy relationships between employees. When employees work together, they’re often more effective and efficient than those who attempt to manage the same projects alone.

Therefore, successfully collaborating with coworkers can increase individual motivation and level of engagement at work. Additionally, sharing ideas and brainstorming helps develop unique solutions to complex challenges.

collective competence and team collaboration in the new normal
A combination of culture, leadership, and incentives needs to come together for collective competence, productivity and team collaboration to reign.

Embracing the concept of collective competence also has implications for evaluation and quality improvement. While it will always be essential to assess the performance of individuals, collective competence requires us to also think about how we evaluate – and remediate, where necessary – the collective performance of the team.

There are many ways to collaborate effectively at work, and the skills and techniques you rely on when you collaborate can lead to greater efficiency and success.

How MEERQAT can help you improve collective competence

At MEERQAT Pty Ltd, we’re creating tools to help organisations build their teams’ collective competence and apply a collective lens to evaluation and quality improvement.

Our flagship application – MEERQAT – has been developed specifically to tap into the knowledge and experience of staff in assessing the health of business processes or programs.

MEERQAT provides a structure for team discussions and allows staff to learn from each other about their respective contributions to business processes and the impact of their contributions on the activities of others.

Importantly, through being encouraged to make a meaningful contribution to the evaluation process, staff develop a collective sense of ownership about assessment and quality improvement activities.

📋 Read how nurturing collective competence in two clinical units led to a 34% reduction in adverse hospital events in our BMJ Open Quality paper


Whether you already consider yourself an A-plus team player or not, there’s always room for improvement. And as you saw in this article, it is essential you take some action steps to start collaborating better with your team. We would love to know more from you and what you think are the most important steps to embrace collective competence in your organisation.

Discover MEERQAT, a tool to help you succeed with employee engagement and quality improvement
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