4 Tips on Improving Interdepartmental Collaboration

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Your organization functions at its best when everyone is on the same page.                                                                                           

Carter Liebscher|
October 29, 2019

As crowdsourcing experts, we believe that collaboration is the key to innovation success. From the executive suite to R&D; from human resources to IT, an organization operates at its best when everyone is on the same page.

There is more to collaboration, however, than department heads catching each other up once a week. Effective collaboration includes constructive criticism; testing products through different departments’ lenses; and hashing out bugs in real-time. As Ron Ashkenas puts it for the Harvard Business Review, “There’s a difference between cooperation and collaboration.

Here are four tips on how the teams in your organization can engage in more meaningful collaboration—and remain engaged for the long term.

Create a Casual, Safe Environment

Every department is comprised of people with certain skillsets, work habits, and personality traits. Differences between employees may be less pronounced within a department—after all, they do have similar responsibilities and goals. However, when a project arises requiring input from other departments, personalities can clash and put the project in jeopardy.

Collaboration is, of course, a shared process, and it needs a neutral space to help tasks run smoothly. By cultivating a casual and safe environment that allows for even obvious questions, you create a low-stakes space that may reap high rewards.

It can be difficult to encourage curiosity and patience when employees of varying seniority levels are involved. However, while junior department members should hear what subject matter experts (SMEs) have to say, senior employees should understand that “the outside perspective of a non-expert can provide some priceless insights.

Share a Common Language

Kuty Shalev, founder of Clevertech, likens department-specific jargon to the language you hear in the ER. You’ll listen to nurses and doctors speaking in abbreviated phrases and wonder how they could possibly understand each other. They are, however, understanding each other perfectly, all while using a concise, effective, shared language.

Of course, the hospital is a high-stakes environment where communication is at the helm of people’s lives, but your organization can have similar success by implementing a common language.

Shalev recommends chunking, a method of compartmentalizing complex information in small bits of language. Think of it as the opposite of multitasking: Instead of putting forth a little effort into many tasks, you put a lot of effort into one task. In language, chunking is as simple as saying “let’s run through the marketing doc” rather than “let’s read through and then talk about the document you typed up in Google Drive.” “Run through” implies that you’ll read and talk about the text, and “doc” implies it was written in Google Drive.

There might be more organization-specific chunked phrases you can use, such as acronyms referring to processes learned in onboarding. The concept, though, remains the same.

Engage in Team-Building Activities

Team-building activities can set the precedent for how employees should collaborate come crunch time. They provide an opportunity for employees who have previously had little interaction with each other to get along—and understand how each other work.

Some of the more popular activities seem silly out of context. The Great Egg Drop, for example, asks teams to devise packages that can prevent an egg from cracking even when dropped from a great height. Before the drop, the teams are to create a 30-second ad that highlights their creation’s benefits.

Some employees may think it’s a silly, needless activity; some might outright say it. However, the skills employees learn are transferable to actual work-related projects. They gain insight on the entire product-creation process, from designing to engineering to marketing.

Utilize an Internal Communication Platform

Obviously communication is the key to collaboration, you might think. Consolidated communication, however, is invaluable to collaborative efforts.

Just as how chunking language simplifies complex, wordy ideas, communication platforms chunk ideas and opinions in appropriate channels. An upcoming event that could be worthwhile to attend would be shared in an “events” channel, or an article on health care innovations could be shared in a “news” channel. Such platforms can be used for more than surface-level communication—they can be used to share valuable ideas across departments.

Idea management software is able to capture employees creative ideas, no matter what their role is or which department they’re from.

For more info on how idea management software can help you engage and collaborate with your team members, download our free crash course!

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