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Tips for Succeeding in a Collaborative Workspace

Posted by Kirsten on Jan 20, 2015 6:01:56 AM
We Work Washington DC Collaborative Work Space

Teamwork, cooperation, collaboration… it always looked so easy on Sesame Street, but here on earth, it’s not always so simple. Everyone on a team has a collection of personalities with strengths, weaknesses, quirks, talents and varying levels of ego, disagreement and distraction. Detangling difficulties in order to reach a blissful level of collaboration is always a challenge—but one that’s worth it when a plan comes together. Here are some tips to make the magic happen:

How to Succeed in a Collaborative Workspace

1. Remove Barriers to Success

Forbes recently brought together the ideas of Cisco execs and authors Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese with Collaboration author Morten Hansen, who concluded together that “…bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration…” and noted the following as the biggest and most common collaboration busters:

  • Murky goals, expectations and processes
  • Decision-making processes not transparent to the team members
  • Top management not sticking to the program

The antidote for these problems is clarity and transparency; roles, goals, communication and processes should be clear across the board.

2. Assemble the Right Team

With a clear goal in mind, bring together a team of people with the talents and personalities that might best mesh together. Kevin Daum of Inc. says they don’t always have to be like-minded; different perspectives and diversity in a group can lead enhanced creativity and growth, as long as they don’t clash terribly.

3. Facilitate Brainstorming

Ideation is a crucial part of the collaboration process, but without facilitation, the extroverts in the group may leave the introverts feeling run over and great ideas may not surface. Daum also advises assigning a strong facilitator to help the group stick to a brainstorming process whereby everyone can pitch in equally. A facilitator can also help the group work through disagreements and snags.

4. Focus on Deliverables

Once the brainstorming process results in some actionable ideas, Nicole Zhu of Idea Lab on PBS recommends clearly assigning team members to certain deliverables and then scheduling regular status updates on how the project deliverables are progressing. Rare is the project that runs smoothly, so it’s important that the facilitator keep communication open and moving through those difficulties.

5. Overcoming Problem Personalities

Speaking of difficulties, one of the toughest things collaborative efforts bump into are personality conflicts. Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. has a lot of advice in his Psychology Today article about navigating problem personalities recommends staying calm and separating the people from the problem to try and maintain objectivity (no easy task). The bottom line is that everyone on the team should remain respectful, even when there are disagreements. He also suggests:

  • Focus on being proactive instead of reactive; refrain from blaming, and focus on problem solving.
  • Step back from the problem or disagreement for awhile to let things cool down before coming back to the table.
  • Inject some appropriate humor (keep it clean) into the situation to lighten the mood and foster creativity and collaboration.

Looking for more pathways to successful collaboration? Ready to put these tips to work in your new workplace? We can help with that, contact us today to learn more about how a collaborative workspace can be good for you.

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