Larry Alton

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Five Tips to Encourage Collaboration | @DevOpsSummit #BI #BPM #DevOps

Collaboration matters, so make it central to your business

Fertile ideas that germinate out of internal collaboration are what will set your company ahead of the competition.

The era of the open-plan office is over, but that doesn’t mean collaboration should go by the wayside at your firm. Rather, all professionals need to develop new ways to make our workplace conducive to teamwork, through both the physical and technological structures.

Where should your office start? Whether you’re building a space from the ground up or adapting your current office layout, here are five ideas you can put to work in your business.

Chat Smarter
One of the most irritating and distracting features of the open office plan is the fact that everyone is forced to listen to other people’s conversations, both on the phone and between coworkers. In some ways, this was the point of having an open office: We wanted members of the team to talk to one another … but we didn’t want this to drag everyone else away from their work.

Rather than force your employees to hold every conversation face to face while distracting their colleagues, try implementing office-oriented messaging software. Chat-style messengers enable communication between two or more people in the office without all the oral distraction. That’s a win for everyone.

Share Safely
When people collaborate on projects, the ability to share files is paramount, but that raises concerns about cyber security. That’s why your business should equip employees with encryption software so any files they transmit are protected.

Although a flier design might not be sensitive, the contents of internal reports, client contact and business info, and financial transactions should be thoroughly protected, especially when they change hands.

Feed the Team
If anything fuels interaction and creativity, it’s food. To be accurate, though, it’s not the food that generates new ideas in itself, but people’s movement around and engagement over enticing food that encourages coworkers to collaborate naturally.

Organize your workspace so that food is always available nearby, to encourage employees to linger in kitchens and other shared spaces. Though not every interaction will lead to a revolutionary idea, moments of unplanned exchange and engagement between people who might not otherwise collaborate can occasionally result in unexpected insights. If nothing else, it will surely boost morale.

Set the Stage
Rather than try to turn your entire workspace into a collaboration boiler, set aside discrete areas that are likely to spark and foster creativity. This might mean having a room with whiteboard walls for idea development, or a kind of office-wide vision board where people can tack up inspirational messages, articles, and even color palettes for a new design.

You might also consider launching an in-house blog or newsletter where team members may share new developments and ideas, and seek casual feedback.

Lead the Way
You can’t expect your employees to collaborate with one another if the upper echelons of the team act as though they’re above mixing with the rank and file. Encourage managers to participate in group discussions, contribute ideas to projects rather than just oversee them, and engage in public areas by eating lunch with team members, hanging around the kitchen, and generally acting like part of the team, rather than as a separate “boss.”

Fertile ideas that germinate out of internal collaboration are what will set your company ahead of the competition. But in order to develop teamwork, you need an environment that’s amenable to interaction and innovation without being disruptive.

By eschewing the open-plan office for strategies like these, you’ll be providing your employees with the resources they need to do their best work - together - without pulling others off task.

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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.