Culture of Collaboration: maybe you’ve heard this term a few times before. Maybe you’ve even taken some steps toward adding some collaborative efforts to your team’s current processes. But do you really know why collaboration is so important—why it’s key to form an entire culture around it? Trust us, it’s crucial—and it’s within reach, even in this age of remote work and digital communication.
Culture of Collaboration: What is it?
According to Kip Kelly and Alan Schaefer, true collaboration maximizes “individual contribution while leveraging the collective intelligence of everyone involved…in which people collectively explore ideas to generate solutions that extend beyond the limited vision of a single person.”
In a culture of collaboration, team members on the whole are resistant to becoming siloed by role. Instead, they recognize the limits of what they can accomplish on their own. They proactively reach across various functional teams to solicit ideas, feedback, and differing perspectives. And research shows it works—collaboration correlates directly to one of our favorite words as a tech company: innovation.
A Culture of Collaboration increases innovation and performance
Collaborating across your organization’s various teams is crucial. Look at it this way: your Customer Success team understands client needs and feedback, your Developers know all your product potential and possibilities, and Sales knows what’s most important and exciting to prospects. Bringing all these viewpoints together makes it easier to see when an opportunity is most promising, and how to make it work best for the largest group of people.
Plus, according to a Nielsen Report on collaboration, having more people provide creative input on a concept directly correlated to the number of unique concepts generated. And not only that, their study showed that larger teams increase the likelihood of identifying concepts that perform well with consumers. As AgileThought’s Chief Data Scientist James Parks put it in How AI Can Modernize Your Business Processes, a cross-functional team is key to conceptualizing, as well as pulling off, big ideas—one person alone will simply never solve as many problems. To put it simply: greater collaboration = greater innovation.
Creating Your Own Culture of Collaboration
Ready to get collaborative in your own organization? Here are a few things you can do to get started.
Embrace Transparency to Break Down Silos
Our silos at work are real, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The skills and ideas that made your team members such good fits for their roles can (and should) be leveraged for other projects. And while it may take a little extra time at the start of a project or new enterprise to think through how to get everyone together and talking, it’s worth it to get your skilled people working across the teams in your organization. After all, pulling outsiders into a project is the first step toward innovative thinking.
The first step to looping in the right people is getting transparent yourself. What are your people working on? Have you shared it, and invited in outside opinions and feedback?
And while you’re at it, be mindful of the communication within your organization—including your own. If transparency isn’t practiced or modeled by leadership, it may inhibit peoples’ ability or willingness to share openly.
Embrace Different Perspectives to Generate Better Ideas
Once on the other side of those silos comes the business of actually inviting and listening to external perspectives—and the more diversity, the better. In fact, according to the Nielsen collaboration report:
- Concepts developed by teams with representatives from four or more functional groups outperformed those developed by teams with representatives from just one functional group by 7 percentage points.
- Teams that branch out to include functions beyond marketing and insight roles (ex. Sales, R&D, etc.) create concepts that are more preferred by consumers by 6 percentage points.
- Teams of six or more people generate over double the unique concepts of teams of only 3-5 people (47 million versus 23 million concepts).
Yes, it’s hard work to get all these viewpoints in the same room. And it’s probably a little slower. But when you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see how the improvement in results justifies the extra effort.
Embrace Digital Tools to Collaborate Remotely
“I define collaboration as ‘working together to create value while sharing virtual or physical space…’ No question people are more collaborative and innovative when they’re together, but the point is people can be together virtually as well as physically. Many tools and technologies support high-impact virtual collaboration.”
According to Rosen, one of the worst ways to support a culture of collaboration is what he refers to as “command and control culture,” in which, for example, team members are required to commute daily, or their work/life balance is otherwise disrupted by outside demands. Not only is this the antithesis of collaborative culture, it could short-circuit your efforts by reducing spontaneous encounters and discussion.
That’s why the better option is to fully leverage the tools that allow for unstructured conversation and teamwork—virtually. Tools such as Teams or Slack are obvious options here, for chat and the option to videoconference with multiple colleagues. But whatever option your organization has in place for these functions, the point is, use it.
Embrace the Long Game to Stay Motivated
To say major shifts in organizational culture take time would be an understatement. Your new mantra is change takes time. Repeat it to yourself when the transition toward collaboration seems stalled. When one of your managers is stuck in their silo. When it feels like you’re not getting the buy-in you imagined.
And, of course: celebrate the wins. Progress often happens in baby steps, and that’s ok, especially if this is a big change for your current culture. Just keep your end goal—innovation—in mind as you blaze new trails toward creating concepts and products your customers will love.