Collaboration: The 3D Approach to Business

In an increasingly complex and connected world, our issues have become more intricate and our skillsets more specialised. To survive and thrive, businesses must be receptive to cross-sectoral collaboration.

In 1903, the Wright brothers designed, built and flew a plane. Today, a Boeing 787 requires dozens of specialists for the engines alone. Now factor in the controls, the hydraulics, the airframe itself, not to mention the inspectors, pilots, crew, caterers and air traffic controllers. There is an astonishing number of specialized people from various sectors required to collaborate in order to achieve aeronautical success in the 21stcentury.

Many Minds Make Light Work

According to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) a collaborative approach is the most sustainable way of meeting today’s multifaceted needs. A team of professionals from varying fields of expertise will approach a project from multiple angles. This three-dimensional perspective means that not only are more creative, well-rounded ideas produced, but a greater number of potential issues can be identified and resolved pre-production.

As Jeanine Becker & David B. Smith describe in their article for SSIR, “the gift in cross-sector collaboration is that it is possible to use differences as an asset—differences in resources, experience, demographics, industry, and sector, as well as differences in perspective, such as assessments of risk, time, and scale”. 

But collaboration isn’t just good for businesses, it’s good for individuals too. Working in a diverse team distributes the workload between members, encourages healthy working relationships and allows people to pool their expertise toward a common goal. Yet where collaboration holds the potential for creativity, unity and innovation, many of them falter before the finish line.

Communication Malfunction

One of the main reasons for this is a failure in communication. Too often, departments or sectors in a company refuse to share information with each other. This is known as “silo mentality” and it’s one of the most common obstacles standing in the way of successful collaborations. Silo mentality can result from rivalry, biases or just plain lack of knowledge or understanding of how other departments work.

So what can businesses do to encourage effective collaboration? One solution, according to Benjamin Jones, strategy professor at the Kellogg School, is to create a space where people can meet other professionals from various sectors, people they normally wouldn’t have encountered. 

An example of this can be seen at Pixar. The famous animation studio designed its entire California-based headquarters with mingling in mind. The bathrooms and cafeteria are in the belly of the building, forcing all employees to pass through it a few times a day. 

“They were very intentional about wanting people who are artists and animators, and the coders, and the music people, and the screen writers to be constantly bumping into each other in random ways to spark ideas,” says Jones.

Digital collaboration. Making the impossible virtually possible.

Where Jones talks of creating a physical space for connections to be made and ideas heard, we at Innodirect know that budget and space constraints can be restrictive. That’s why we’ve moved the idea of the “shared space” online, creating a platform for professionals with differing specialities to meet, share their ideas and expertise, and brainstorm unique solutions.

No, we aren’t the only ones to have thought of this. But we do differ from other collaboration platforms in two fundamental ways. Firstly, exchanges are anonymous, improving the quality and quantity of ideas produced. To ensure quality and efficiency, messages are validated before being posted. This all sets the groundwork for selected participants to use our discussion boards to express their ideas more freely, without fear of judgement, damage to their professional reputation, or trepidation about online harassment

The second aspect setting us apart is that each discussion on our platform is manually and artfully facilitated in order to obtain optimal results. The facilitator keeps discussions on track, encourages participation and recaps ideas. Added to this is the convenience online discussions offer, allowing users to participate from anywhere at any time.

Simple, easy-to-use and budget-friendly; surely if collaboration is today’s key to successful projects, then online collaboration is the way of the future.

Interested in taking your collaborations to a new dimension?

Words and cartoon by Kirsten Sokolovski.

Edited by Sophie Juignier and Philippe Meloni.

The Innodirect Team

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