We talk a lot about collaboration, and for good reason: Through collaboration you get your best work done, tap into the diverse perspectives of the world around you, and make something that really sings. Plus, it’s pretty fun.
Lots of our clients come to us wanting to dip their toes into something new and scary that doesn’t come naturally to them. We come to their turf and hold workshops where we show them how to roll up their sleeves and dig into something cool, like Design Thinking, Sketching, Storytelling, and – you guessed it – Collaboration.
And for all the great guidance we give on the subject, there’s one piece of advice that always seems to get clients’ goats: Build friendships first, and collaboration will flow organically.
According to a bunch of great research, the best collaborators are friends. It makes sense when you think about it: Friends work through problems and make decisions together all the time – even a decision like where to go for dinner boosts the group’s collaboration cred.
You can’t just hire a group of friends to be your employees, so what can you do? Well, you can cultivate friendships among the people on your team. It’s not as hard or as forced as it sounds. Try this:
1. Set up after-work happy hours or dinners to get your team to spend time together not working on projects.
2. Coordinate small-win celebrations, like bringing in pizza for lunch or taking impromptu afternoon ice cream runs, to reward your teams’ hard work.
3. Enjoy some non-work-related activities together – take a cooking class, throw axes, make pottery, go to a concert. Anything that helps people connect and communicate with one another on a deeper level.
4. Invest in professional & personal development. Encourage employees to find conferences and meetups about topics that interest them, and then help them get there.
5. Create weekly or monthly in-office events, like potlucks or skillshares or yoga classes, to bring people together around a shared interest. (Hint: Food is a pretty universal interest.)
6. Assign a team to keep the momentum going. Shared ownership ensures that the initiative doesn’t fall by the wayside and that novel, creative events keep people engaged inside and outside the office.
The bottom line: If you want your team to be truly natural collaborators, start by fostering friendships.