How collaboration can foster creativity and innovative thinking

April 5, 2016 Colin Piper

A360 Collaboration

Countless studies have proven that innovation happens when content expertise is matched with creative, nonlinear thinking. It’s also true that diverse teams are better teams; across the board they are more efficient, more innovative, and more successful.

“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”

– Katherine W. Phillips, Scientific American

We’ve outlined three ways you can perform better and enhance creativity by increasing diversity and cross-functional collaboration at work:

  1. Open the feedback loop
  2. Hold cross-functional meetings
  3. Use a common platform for collaboration

Open the feedback loop

You’re stuck and you just can’t think of the solution. Chances are you’re circling through the same ideas alone or with people who are similar to you in job function or area of expertise. To get out of your work rut, invite someone who has a different set of skills to provide an opinion. Feedback from outside your group can provide a different perspective, and may lead to a burst of creativity big enough to make the difference.

You’ve tried reconciling a new building footprint for two days straight and shown it to your colleagues but are struggling to find a solution. You know there is a more optimal site layout. Speaking to someone outside of your department who has a different background can be helpful for adding diversity of process and perspectives. For example, including someone who has site or civil engineering experience could spark new visual ideas or speaking with someone in business management could improve building organization. Both of these examples of outside input also have one thing in common: they don’t have limits on their creative process that you may have from years of working in the same field. This fresh input may push the boundaries of what’s possible, and that’s where innovation happens: on the edge.

With fewer boundaries set by prior knowledge and less investment in the outcome, an outside perspective can open the conversation to new ideas, and even spur some of your own.

Cross-functional meetings

Collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders and creating more project transparency leads to true innovation. In the same vein as opening the feedback loop when you’re in a rut, having cross-functional meetings can facilitate decision making and drive the design process. Get proactive: have meetings with different, but related teams to increase creativity. Having more and differing opinions is better for business than homogeneous voices, and collecting varying opinions enables each member of the team to provide a unique perspective.

Use a common platform for collaboration

Collaboration tools enable cross-functional teams to work together, effectively bringing otherwise disparate teams together and enabling seamless access to shared assets. Sharing, viewing, and commenting on project files opens the feedback loop and enables different teams to work on the same project wherever they are.

“…value will come from connectivity, data, collaboration, feedback loops, and learning—all of which can lay the groundwork for new and more powerful business models.”

Hagel, J., III, Brown, J. S., Kulasooriya, D., Giffi, C., & Chen, M. (2015). The future of manufacturing Making things in a changing world. Deloitte Center for the Edge.

For example, if you’re an engineer, ask someone in the environmental design department to weigh in on a project, invite the real estate team to the table; expand the circle and experience a serious ripple effect: “As knowledge and information are digitized, it’s easier than ever to learn a new skill or connect with experts in any field…” (Hagel, 2015). Collaboration across geographic location, department, and skillsets all bring the same thing: new opinions—fresh air.

Working within your group or your area of expertise can create good outcomes, but widening the view to include different perspectives will create brilliant, new outcomes that are more likely to innovate.

Learn more about how cloud collaboration and cross-functional feedback cycles worked for Bates to deliver a state-of-the-art healthcare facility.

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