Modern Habit #4: The Collaborative Company Culture

Collaborative Company Culture

In this 5-habit blog series on the Modern Workplace, today we 5 Habits of Modern Workplace Culture:  

Build Bridges and Tear Down Silos.

Collaboration is the name of the game in business today.


Speed. You can’t operate with full competitive advantage unless people are working together across departments. This is true whether you’re a 10-person company, or 100,000.

Knowledge. Today, knowledge is specialized. With transparency and speed being the foundation to compete now, it is no longer sufficient to be the smartest expert in the room. As leaders, we have to build collaboration between lots of smart people.

Innovation. Customers expect new products and services in exchange for their loyalty. The “innovation machine” in your company cannot be exclusive to R&D. You need a continuous dialogue and perspectives that engage employees on the front lines of the business.

Empathy. Workplace empathy is essential to creating a great customer experience. (You cannot expect people to give to customers, something they don’t experience at work.) It is brought to life when people understand the world of those upstream and downstream from their job.

Tribal nature. Human beings are tribal. We “know” our tribe when we solve problems together. A unified company culture requires expanding people’s understanding of “Who’s my tribe.” (Hint: It’s not your department.)

6 Ways to Tear Down Silos and Build a Collaboration-Friendly Company Culture.

Shared goals. Set a goal that requires people to work across boundaries. “Shorten product life cycle to market.” “Team bonuses on customer satisfaction.” “Attract and retain the brightest talent.”

Culture champions. If you are building a collaborative workplace culture, you need champions who are willing to model collaborative behaviors, visibly – in meetings, through email, with customers. Recruit a group of cross-functional people and train them in specific skills, to bring a better workplace culture to life.

Expand invitation list for company meetings. Consider including people you normally don’t at a portion of your Sales or Operations meeting. Even virtual meetings can accomplish this, using RealTime Boards and other online collaboration tools that are growing in popularity. Building bridges between islands helps tear down walls.

Innovation labs.  Formalize a cross-functional innovation lab, with a specific charter, purpose, and goals that requires members to come together. Like FedEx Days, made famous by A tlassian: a 24-hour event in which employees deliver innovation to the company in a 24-hour period. During that time, people are not required to do regular work, and have total autonomy over the project they are enthusiastic about. They decide for themselves what they will be working on, who they are going to work with, and how they are going to do it. Only one rule applies: People who sign up must show their results to the company at the end of the FedEx Day.

Reward it!  Create and reward people for working across boundaries, through spot awards or employee recognition for Collaboration. Use marketing principles to make it a visible campaign, like “Collaborator of the Month.”

Create the right environment. Build inviting spaces for people to gather, and nominate a “Social Network Coordinator” to stimulate fun ways to meet, share coffee and conversation.  Pitney Bowes wanted to improve communication between their employees in order to increase idea generation.  The company decided to completely redesign the interior office space to resemble a calm, small village – with the intent to break down communication barriers.  The redesigned office had its own village square and café, designed to encourage trust and a feeling of community amongst employees.  The relaxed workplace saw the company go from strength to strength, launching successful new products because of the increased collaboration and communication levels.

Collaborative workplace cultures are not just for productivity and ROI in business. Research shows the more people have kindred spirits in their workplace, the more likely they will be happier at work, and loyal to their company.

Fostering collaboration is an essential cultural capability in a fast-moving, fickle economy. It’s an immune system booster against arrogance and “We’re the best” thinking that erodes competitive advantage. And, it fosters relationships internally to help reduce competitive behaviors inside the company, and help you aim that competitive energy where it belongs: Outside.

Widen your lens, reach out and touch someone … and watch the good vibes spread.

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