How to collaborate effectively and drive innovation

Top tips for getting the most out of your team in 2019

Innovation isn’t just a buzzword, it's the driver to making sure your business performs in competitive markets and delivers on your customers' needs. 

But what's sometimes overlooked, is that innovation is a team sport. And effective collaboration can significantly impact a business' bottom line. Smart businesses are therefore becoming more connected - are you one of them?

Our innate human nature relies on communities and networks, and we see this reflected in the workplace:  employees rarely operate in isolation and, what’s more, they’re not just collaborating with people in the same office. They’re working closely with team members, partners, and suppliers in different locations, timezones, and cultures.

So how can you collaborate effectively and drive innovation for your business?

1. Work doesn't have to be boring

Over the course of your lifetime, you will spend 90,000 hours at work. That's a lot of time to go by slowly if you don't have anyone to share it with. But it's not just about communicating and collaborating with others - its' how you go about it too.

Businesses can take the drudgery out of work by using new tools and platforms to introduce playfulness into work engagement, such as through gamification. And the increasing blurred lines between B2B and B2C technology means employees can now create their own social media communities and communicate instantly using gifs and emojis to support.

Virtual workspaces using new intranet tools and systems give people engaging hubs to disseminate key information and work optimally - look at Slack and Trello for example.

By giving your workforce these opportunities to be creative, and focus on design thinking and relationship building, you'll drive a more inclusive, collaborative and results-focused environment. And that's where innovation thrives.

2. Don't underestimate the millennials

Millenials, those individuals born between 1981 and 1996, are the rising workforce - and they bring a new perspective of collaborating with them. These younger colleagues have been found to use as many as five screens at once: meaning they're therefore excellent at filtering out non-relevant and/or non-engaging information. And when they want to share that information, they prefer messaging apps to emails or calls. 

How does that help you increase your productivity? Make sure images, videos, and short-form text are a core part of your communications, and ask this new generation their opinion. Sometimes the simplest thing to you, can be overwhelmingly complex to an outsider - and vice versa!

3. The physical side is still important

With so many tools on offer to collaborate and interact digitally, you could be forgiven for thinking that the workplace of the future is simply a group of individuals working from their homes or other locations, rarely meeting in real life. 

But the truth is that this type of virtual working can result in employee disengagement - haptic communication is an important part of our day to day life and to remove that element for two-thirds of your day can halt the ability to effectively connect and collaborate with colleagues. 

Luckily, this has been recognised by workplace wellbeing experts, and has sparked a wave in innovation in physical workspaces. Businesses should now look to move away from the conventional open plan design, to more creative ways of breaking down internal barriers and leaning into the capabilities of technology to reinvent the office. The result should be a tailored, shared space that your employees want to spend time in - and that stimulates and facilitates ideation.

Want some ideas? Workshop zones are becoming more common and they’re not just rooms with tables, chairs, and whiteboards... Instead they house technology and tools that employees are actively encouraged to experiment with, to drive collaboration and innovative thinking. They could even include conferencing technology too, so team members from anywhere in the world can feel part of the session and engage in real time.

So...What should I do to get my teams working to their best?

As a business leader / owner / director, you're probably not looking for your employees just showing up and clocking in. You want your handpicked staff to bring their full selves, almost blurring the lines between professional and personal. Amplify this. Create a workplace that encourages bouncing ideas around, to help unlock skills that employees may otherwise have had no impetus to share. Ultimately, this will drive innovation.

Ok, to do this you might need to make a few more tangible changes:

  • Invest in technology (apps, platforms, infrastructure). Check that you're getting tools that will help you and your teams monitor, personalise, and optimise how you use your workplace, rather than just be a passive participant of it 
  • Designate physical areas to inspiring innovation and speaking to others
  • Start up regular initiatives that encourage staff to get inventive. This helps make innovation the norm, rather than something unusual.

And most importantly, remember technology doesn’t have to be equipment on a desk, traditionally configured. Your technology can move with you and be embedded in almost anything - ideas come from people, not the tools!

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And you can read the original post from Konica Minolta Australia here: