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Five tips to build a culture of collaboration

December 7, 2016

When I landed my first professional job in the mid ‘90s, I remember feeling tremendous pressure to have all the answers in my ‘area of expertise’. If there was a problem, it was expected that I would lock myself in the office until I figured out how best to solve it. It wasn’t long before I realized that approaching my work in that way would surely cause me to fail. I knew that I could benefit from the insight of others to help develop solutions to solve problems. And, it turns out that leveraging others’ experience and know-how in the organization was a smart way to make sure my solutions were aligned with the company goals and strategy.

Where before we may have viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness, today it is recognized (rightfully so) as a strength.  And while we’ve made great strides in the modern workplace to place value on collaboration, there are still organizations (and leaders) that stifle it. Collaboration is a key driver of innovation; without, innovation rarely happens. So if you want to build an innovative organization, make sure that a collaborative culture is thriving. Here are five ways to move the bar:

  1. Ask for help and feedback. If employees sees that the CEO or other senior leaders are willing to ask for help or feedback on work they are doing, those employees will feel less fearful to admit they don’t have all of the answers.
  2. Offer encouragement and support to co-workers. We all have a role to play when it comes to collaboration. If you notice one of your co-workers is less than collaborative with the team, encourage them to share what they’re working on. Offer your help, or act as a sounding board. Encouraging everyone around you to collaborate helps to grow a culture of collaboration.
  3. Respond to collaboration requests. When others seek your input, see those moments as opportunities, not as a task request. The more we are willing to share with others, the more likely they will be to help us out when we need it.
  4. Build time for collaboration into working timelines. There is a false assumption that collaboration will slow down projects and cause us to miss deadlines. When we build collaboration into the process, we can effectively reduce rework cycles by engaging the knowledge and expertise we need in the concept review stage before we invest a lot of time and effort into development.
  5. Make it easy to collaborate. Look at the systems you have at your disposal already to determine how you can leverage them for greater collaboration. Can you establish project blogs that allow people to see progress and offer opinions? Do you have a portal that you can use to share info or ideas? Are you all in one location where you can ‘test’ ideas or concepts by catching people around the lunch room table? Can you leverage other software to capture feedback? (ex. Survey monkey, Slack, etc.)

Ultimately, to drive collaboration we have to change our mindset first, and then adjust our behaviour accordingly. If we can acknowledge that it is in our, and our organizations’, best interest to collaborate, we will make it happen with a few adjustments to our behaviour and tools.

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