It’s a competitive world out there in business. Organisations need to innovate, or they stagnate and eventually die. We’ve seen some high-profile examples of that in retail recently, with well-established brands disappearing from our streets because they didn’t recognise this, or didn’t act on it.
Many pieces of research show that collaboration can be the key to unlocking that innovation.
Back in 2014, a Stanford study showed that performance can be improved just by the perception of working together. Those in the research that were asked to work collaboratively persevered with their tasks for 64% longer than those who worked alone.
Similar findings came from a joint study between the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden, Professor of Global Business at Babson College. This piece of research showed that companies that promoted collaborative working had a 5-times higher chance of being high performing.
No wonder, then, that Research England has recently invested £67 million in 14 collaborative projects between universities and other partners to drive forward world-class university commercialisation across the country.
So, it seems clear that as today’s businesses find ways to operate in constantly evolving markets, innovation gives companies an edge. But it’s one thing to talk about innovation, quite another to inspire it within your organisation.
When collaboration is embraced in a workplace, it lets everyone bring their own skills and knowledge to the process. By working together and integrating different points of view, new ideas can be sparked.
Many managers will recognise this, but there can be hidden barriers in many companies that prevent or discourage effective collaboration.
Consider the traditional office layout. Even in open plan offices, dividers separate people and discourage communication. Think about a layout that allows ideas to flow, that encourages workers to ask each other questions and seek input from a wide range of colleagues. Look at setting up huddle spaces or using that usually empty meeting room as a collaboration space. Technology is your friend, with today’s systems supporting collaboration by allowing the easy sharing and tracking of ideas.
And then you have the personalities of different people. Not everyone is a natural communicator. We can all think of one or two I’m sure! A recent Neilson report found that some people are hesitant to collaborate because they think it will create more work or stress for them. Some of your staff will need to be trained on how to collaborate, and educated about how it will make their lives better. You can’t just bung people in the same room and leave them to get on with it. To create that collaborative culture, you must focus on creating a culture that encourages open discussion, and provide opportunities to encourage such interactions.
Many organisations provide common areas, but how often are these tiny kitchens with a cupboard and a kettle? With a larger, comfortable lounge area, encourage workers to get to spend time there and so get to know each other and build beneficial relationships. You could think about holding collaboration events for staff on a regular basis. Make them fun, and you’ll inspire people to work together. Once they see what they can achieve, urge them to take what they’ve learned back into their day jobs.
Finally, it goes without saying that a collaboration culture won’t happen unless it starts from the top. After studying 55 of the largest teams from companies such as the BBC, Marriott and Pixar, researchers identified a number of things that successful teams do. Number one on the list is that they have leaders that champion collaboration.
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