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Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, right, greets attendees during the DreamForce Conference in San Francisco, Calif., in October prior to giving a talk about leadership.

Noah Berger/Bloomberg

No matter what industry or position, the world's foremost thought leaders believe that collaboration, communication and putting people first is the key to success in any business endeavour.

Such was the message echoed throughout the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco last month – an annual event hosted by cloud computing company Salesforce – which brought in big name speakers from a variety of disciplines to share their secrets to success.

Motivational speaker, author and life coach Tony Robbins kicked off the event with a true-to-form presentation on finding personal success through collaboration and teamwork.

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During his three-hour presentation Mr. Robbins had no shortage of advice for the large crowd, discussing some of the qualities that successful companies and leaders all share in common.

"In business, advantage doesn't come because you have the most resources," he said. "Companies with the most resources don't win. The most resourceful companies win."

Mr. Robbins explained that the most resourceful companies are those that make best use of their talent, citing studies that show that 71 per cent of American employees are not engaged at work.

"When you engage people, there is no limit to the resources you can access," he said. "Engaging people is finding a way to meet their needs, not yours. If you meet their needs, your needs will be met as well."

Mr. Robbins added that sincerity, caring and energy are key to building engagement, while arrogance, lying and inauthenticity will make people disengaged.

Collaboration and fostering strong relationships are the focus for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Even after all of the challenges she faced with partisan politics in Washington, she still believes that the key to success is working with others to find common ground.

"You should be partnering with anybody who can help you solve a problem," she said. "Obviously, you have principles and values you're not going to sacrifice, but let's get real here and work with people, even if they are in disagreement with us, to see if there's a possibility for co-operation."

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When it comes to building relationships and encouraging dialogue, the former Secretary of State explained that in spite of technological advancements, there is still no substitute in-person communication.

"Technology has put a higher premium on face-to-face meetings. To sit there, across a table, to make the effort to go where they are, to listen to them in their own culture and setting… I don't think there's any substitute for spending that time together," she said.

The need to collaborate and co-operate transcends politics, and those attributes allowed Canadian guitarist, singer and song writing legend Neil Young to transition from the production side of the music industry towards developing a hardware product. Mr. Young believes that his creation, the Pono Player – a high definition music player that provides access to uncompressed music files – came to fruition because of a focus on the wants and needs of music listeners. The idea was developed with the collaboration of hardware experts and funded by music fans who believed in the merits of higher quality audio.

"We raised over $6-million on Kickstarter and blew up a bunch of records that were there previously, because people love music," he said, adding that the original crowdfunding goal was only $800,000. "This is really a grassroots movement to bring back music that you can feel."

Former Black Eyed Peas front man Will.I.Am explained how collaboration was the only way his wearable device, the Plus – a standalone voice-enabled armband that includes features such as fitness tracking, Web browsing, a music player and phone connectivity without being paired with a smartphone – came to be.

Will.I.Am shared the stage with the wide array of partners, fans and experts that he collaborated with to create the device.

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"As I went around telling people what I was doing, the obvious questions happens from the tech world, and that's 'really Will.I.Am? But you're a musician,' " he said, adding that he couldn't have been successful pursuing the idea on his own.

"I've taken a skill that I have from music, travelling around the world and collaborating and bringing people together that you probably thought were never supposed to collaborate," he said. "I know how to bring people together, so this just shows a little bit of that stew I've been brewing."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Salesforce.com as a cloud-based accounting software company. It is a cloud computing company.

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