Aug 31, 2023

Say Yes to Teamwork! How Can you Build a Culture of Collaborative Innovation?

colleagues working together in a meeting

Many companies have considerable potential but are hindered by outdated practices. By fostering innovation and creating a collaborative work environment, these companies can significantly improve their culture and increase revenue. It's never too late to make these changes!

Collaborative cultures take companies from good to excellent

In a fast-paced world, innovation is more crucial than ever. While automation excels at handling repetitive tasks, problem-solving takes on greater importance as customers and stakeholders increasingly demand customized solutions. The pivotal question is: how can a company keep up with current trends while simultaneously maintaining high-quality work?

Companies will outpace their competition by recognizing that innovation originates from within, specifically from their employees. Creativity is essential, but workplace culture is equally important. Work processes also play a vital role in shaping an innovative and collaborative team. A strong collective environment allows each individual employee to thrive.

Collaborative innovation - what is it?

Collaboration involves working together with others, while innovation is about discovering something new. When people bring their diverse skills and resources to the table, new ideas begin to take shape. A well-rounded team should include various personality types, each offering their unique perspectives. Collectively, they can fine-tune ideas to perfection.

Generally speaking, senior employees can contribute wisdom and intuition, while junior employees bring energy and a forward-thinking mindset. In a company with a flat hierarchy, new ideas are welcomed from virtually everyone. This structure allows different departments to break free from their traditional silos and openly share thoughts and ideas. For instance, marketing and sales could mutually benefit from collaboration, and IT and finance can exchange valuable statistics and data.

3 benefits of a collaborative innovation culture

Increased productivity

When team members are isolated and departments don't interact, there's a good chance that people will work on similar tasks or even duplicate efforts. Poor communication often leads to wasted time, as people may inadvertently reinvent the wheel. Rather than capitalizing on well-proven solutions, individuals might be tempted to chase the latest trend.

Collective intelligence

Considering that most employees have spent at least nine years in school and often possess a degree or extensive work experience, each person is a significant asset. The issue is usually not a lack of knowledge, but rather an inability to share that expertise with the rest of the department and to access collective information. Encouraging transparency allows for shared learning and makes it easier to fill in knowledge gaps.

Powerful learning opportunities

A collaborative team doesn't just work together on daily tasks and projects; it also provides support when challenges arise. Team members can proactively discuss problems with colleagues instead of always involving upper management. Top-performing employees can coach and train junior hires, learning something new themselves in the process. However, it's important to allocate time for these learning sessions to avoid interfering with daily tasks.

Why is collaboration hard?

Challenges to teamwork in the workplace

Teamwork is frequently highlighted in job advertisements and interviews, yet some employees find it challenging to be effective team players. The obstacles often stem from organizational issues rather than individual personality traits. Processes, hierarchical structures, or distrustful managers can hinder teamwork. Creating a psychologically safe environment is crucial for employees to express their ideas and admit to mistakes without fear of shame or reprisal. When this safety is lacking, even if a mistake is glaringly obvious, people are hesitant to speak up. They don't want to jeopardize a colleague's position or undermine their team leader.

Office politics and metrics

Office politics can impede high-quality work, harming the company's reputation and revenue over the long term. Employee productivity is often evaluated using quantifiable metrics, such as response rates in customer service or target KPIs in sales and marketing. Soft skills like communication and a friendly demeanor are more challenging to quantify and might go unrewarded.

Why the resistance to collaboration?

With so much to juggle, some may question the value of spending time on communication and collaboration. While this attitude is generally not intentional, there are instances where departments hoard information and refuse to collaborate. Such behavior is often the result of a corporate structure that fosters competition between departments. New hires may be kept in the dark due to this internal rivalry.

What method for creating a collaborative culture is the most effective?

Involve End-User experts in new projects

When launching new projects, management should consider seeking input from employees who interact directly with end-users. While managers possess a broad understanding of the business landscape and key performance indicators (KPIs), fostering an innovative culture requires breaking down old barriers to create a collaborative space.

Engaging employees

There are several ways to get employees on board, such as allocating more time and resources and improving processes. When a broader range of employees can contribute ideas at the initial stage, these ideas can then be refined and polished. This makes it easier to implement various projects and initiatives, and also facilitates more accurate future forecasting.

Idea selection

It's important to note, however, that not every idea can be pursued. During the evaluation process, less viable ideas should be rigorously eliminated, leaving only the best to move forward.

Asking the right questions

When developing solutions, the key is to ask the right questions, such as:

  • What do we aim to achieve?
  • What are the limitations of our current solution?
  • Why do we think the new idea will succeed?
  • What are the associated risks?
  • What is the estimated cost?
  • What is the expected duration of the project?
  • How will we measure success, in terms of Return on Investment (ROI)?

Create transparent processes

To bolster innovation, employees need to understand both the 'why' and the 'how' of their tasks. Transparent processes can be built on everything from standardized feedback systems to clearly defined KPIs and workflows. Make it a habit to discuss not just problems and challenges in meetings, but also to highlight what has worked well. This approach can alleviate stress among employees who are concerned about productivity.

Build a diverse team

At first glance, a homogeneous team might seem like the preferred choice, especially if members share a similar age or educational background. However, this doesn't reflect the diversity of the world at large or of your customer base, which may be more varied. A diverse workforce can contribute unique ideas and solutions to new problems that require different perspectives. Effective management of a diverse team depends on democratic leadership that identifies and leverages the strengths of each individual.

Manage remote teams

Poor communication negatively impacts teamwork, and remote workers are particularly at risk of being left out of the loop. Colleagues in the office may unintentionally or intentionally form an 'inner team,' sidelining remote members. It's advisable to establish robust communication processes that break down these silos and encourage interaction among all team members.

In today's landscape, there are numerous messaging apps and video conferencing tools that facilitate open communication among team members. Consider scheduling two meetings each week: an introductory meeting at the start and a wrap-up meeting to end on a high note before the weekend.

Transparency and knowledge sharing

Some companies enhance their collaborative culture by sharing information and ideas on a shared blog. Contributors to the project can come from various departments, enriching the flow of ideas. Different teams might take turns writing blog posts every other week.

Cultivating a high level of trust

The cornerstone of psychological safety, as previously discussed, is building trust within the workplace. Collaboration doesn't happen spontaneously; it requires intentional effort. Aim to create spaces where employees can come together to work on diverse projects. In addition to offering huddle rooms and meeting spaces, providing various lounges can encourage spontaneous interactions where ideas are freely shared. For example, a marketing employee might strike up a conversation with an IT colleague on a newly designed patio.

Deepening relationships outside of work

When employees form stronger bonds with their coworkers, trust is likely to increase. Seize opportunities for social interactions outside of work, whether it's casual drinks or a more formal conference.

Lead by example

As a leader, it's crucial to set the tone for collaboration. Avoid isolating yourself or becoming invisible in the office. Make it a point to be present not only when things go awry, but also to offer cheers and high-fives to team members. Of course, everything in moderation; managers aren't football coaches, after all. A great leader is unafraid to admit mistakes and is open to showing vulnerability. Don't hesitate to seek input from others. Would you like assistance with anything else?

Flowscape boosts the collaborative environment

At Flowscape, we understand that collaboration flourishes in the right environments. Managing various meeting rooms and smaller collaborative spaces can be challenging for space managers, especially when occupancy rates vary throughout the week. Don't hesitate to reach out to discover how we can enhance your collaborative setting. We have been providing hybrid office solutions since 2011.

Seeking guidance on how to set up your hybrid office for success?

Don't hesitate to schedule a meeting with one of our product experts. They can provide valuable insights into our solutions and how technology can help streamline your office processes without disrupting employees' daily work.

Read more from our blog