Written by Sarah Maynard
Think about your last team meeting. I think it is fair to say that most team meetings are guided by one person standing in front of the white board recording thoughts and explaining concepts to the group. If someone else wants to explain an idea or contribute to the discussion, then they might take the place in front of the white board. They might not even write on the whiteboard and so their thoughts are not even recorded. This is a form of collaboration in the workplace, but I am not convinced that this type of collaboration leads to the innovation and success I imagine most businesses desire.
Historically, white boards have been the epitome of collaboration. However, imagine how chaotic this becomes when ten people end up standing in front of a white board, different colored words and diagrams strewn about the whiteboard, and no clear order. Then, at the conclusion of the meeting, the collaborators scatter back to their desks without a written record of what was discussed. One person may bring out a smartphone to snap a picture and may or may not share it with the rest of the group. At SmartDraw, we use Visual Meetings with visuals like mind maps created in real time with SmartDraw. These visuals are projected in front of the room to drive the meeting and everyone's thoughts are recorded within the mind map for a clear record. After the meeting, this visual can then easily be emailed to the entire team and saved for future reference for both team members at the meeting or for team members absent from the meeting. Plus, when a visual like a mind map is used there is always clear order to the ideas shared during the meeting, especially if the team uses a mind map. Topics are easily broken up into concepts and the relationship between the concepts can be easily understood.
Is this what collaboration actually is? Yes. Collaboration is a process through which a group of people constructively explore their ideas to search for a solution that extends one's own limited vision. Today, as businesses move at an ever increasing rate, working in isolation puts companies at a disadvantage which is why visual meetings, which engage everyone in the room, are important. Collaboration leads to the innovative solutions and results that businesses need to succeed. According to a whitepaper written by anecdote, a company that crafts company stories, there are three types of collaboration:
In each of these types of collaboration, new ideas are generated and explored. However, collaboration is not just a single event or even something easy to do effectively without practice. Collaboration is a process that continues and betters over time. The more a group of people collaborate, the more significant the working relationships become. As working relationships become more comfortable and fluid, teams are better able to share and discuss ideas, which means the results will be increasingly successful. So how do you get started?
I've brainstormed these tips for starting to create a more collaborative workplace:
What other tips would you include for a company looking to become more collaborative? If you are at a loss for the first tactic to try, I would suggest trying to incorporate visual meetings. They are highly collaborative and engaging for all team members. Plus, they revolve around visuals that will clearly communicate the main goal and keep the team on track.