When humans connect, and collide, creative sparks fly. That’s the ignition of innovation, and the key to why collaboration is important.
It's no surprise that collaboration is increasingly seen as something that is essential for business success. We would all like to think that collaboration is easy, but the truth is that it isn’t.
Poor collaboration can have a massive impact on productivity, employee morale, and even innovation. In fact, research has found that 41% of enterprise employees have left or would consider leaving their job due to poor collaboration, and 64% of employees worldwide claim that poor collaboration is costing them at least 3 hours per week in productivity. Given the huge potential for collaboration to make a positive difference to businesses, it’s no wonder that bosses and decision-makers are looking for ways to improve team collaboration.
As companies grow, there are more humans involved – more teams, more departments, more customers – but also more processes and technology to navigate. Communication is noisier, and even the simplest projects can become layered and complex.
So, while the potential for creative sparks expands, companies are not creating the right environment to get the innovation fire burning. And they’re leaving opportunities on the table.
We’ll look at the proven benefits of collaboration, the steps you can take as a facilitator, leader, or manager to improve team collaboration. So let’s hone in on what causes collaboration to go wrong.
What breaks collaboration in business?
Here are some of the main factors we see when working with growing companies:
Working in silos
Silos form when people fall into the habit of only communicating with colleagues in their own departments. It’s easy to see how this compartmentalized way of working can inhibit progress.
A simple example: the product department creates what you sell, marketing explains its value, and sales connects with people who are actually buying it. So when collaboration goes wrong between between the three departments, results will quickly nose-dive.
Politics in a large organization boil down to competition for resources and influence. These are ingrained, almost invisible biases that may have no malicious intentions, but can still derail a project. What breaks collaboration is when teams don’t rely on evidence but on assumptions and opinion, so the most senior person in the room ‘wins’ all the arguments.
Relying on tools and processes alone
Don’t get us wrong, we’re big fans of systems and making workflow more efficient. But traditional linear processes often hinder rather than support coordination and collaboration. When systems are stiff and static, and not backed up by fluid problem solving skills, any change in the market or growth within the company can break collaboration.
Even once you’ve kick started collaboration between departments, keeping it consistent and productive is not easy. Sporadic ‘round-up’ meetings with unclear conclusions, discussion loops with no common objectives, or bottlenecks where only one person can provide a certain skill or green light to move a project forward – this is when collaboration goes wrong.
We’re all familiar with these blocks, and they don’t disappear overnight. So where do we begin?
How do you fix collaboration in business?
Collaboration is the coming together of many moving parts, so the bigger the organization, the move overwhelming it can feel. But the biggest hurdle is getting started. Here are three principles you can introduce to spark change today:
Be brave, be bold
To truly embrace change, you have to take an objective look at what’s working and be prepared to ditch what isn’t. ‘We’ve always done it this way’ is never an argument for keeping work systems that do nothing more than suck your teams’ time.
A lot of businesses make the mistake of applying innovative thinking only in the design department. Future-facing techniques like Sprints, Transformation through Design and collaborative workshops are all based on universal methodologies that can apply to anything from creating a new PR strategy to improving post-sale customer care. To avoid broken collaboration, it’s important that the whole organization is united by the same values and vision.
As Rebekah Cancino from InVision explained:
Broken user experiences are a result of broken cultures.
Invest in leaders
In any setting where many opinions, ideas and goals are in play, an experienced facilitator is key. For the initial stages of any design or strategy building project, hiring an external expert can be particularly productive.
When planning for better collaboration across the board, the best investment you can make is within your own team. Find collaboration champions in your organization and empower them with knowledge, methods and repeatable, adaptable processes to start a ripple effect.
In short, if your teams are spending more time navigating internal structures, discussion loops and communication blocks than exploring opportunities and connecting with what users really need, then results will suffer.
Better collaboration sets off a chain reaction towards more fulfilled teams, valuable products, and satisfied customers. A healthier, happier world of business as a whole.