As a business concept collaboration tends to be overcomplicated.
For all the op eds published by talking heads discussing how collaborative learning can drive agile mindsets, leadership conferences focusing on leveraging communicative synergies and consultants promising to boost entrepreneurial exchange, if you look beyond the jargon they’re all saying the same thing. Helping your staff talk to each other can benefit your business.
While Adam Williams was CEO of influencer marketing agency Takumi (a post he left in February 2020), helping the company’s three global offices communicate better was one of his top priorities. He says the secret is to keep it subtle.
“We use Slack for everything internal so everyone can see what is going on and we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that all the teams get to interact. Every new starter spends time in our London office (which is our biggest) so they can really understand the business. Once a year we also get the whole company together in one place.
“But there’s more informal ad hoc stuff. There are sessions where we get people from multiple markets working together to share ideas. We also have what we call solutions meetings that again bring together people from multiple markets, different departments all working together on specific challenges. It’s not just the senior management, it’s people from across the business.
“I try to ensure that senior leadership travel as much as possible so they are visible and sharing ideas across different companies. We encourage the senior team to spend some time with everyone.
“It might be a beer, a lunch or a coffee but it’s a really good way to help ideas flow. It helps people feel valued because you’re spending time getting to know them, giving them advice or coaching. And some of the most junior members can be the ones who know the most about what influencers want or how the market is changing - if we don’t give them a seat at the table we miss out on that information.
“We're planning on introducing a buddy system that matches people up in different markets as mentors. So someone in the US might work with someone in the UK, then they might be matched with someone in Germany. Either way it will make sure that they get together, share ideas and generally just get to know people in different markets.
“Every business has that challenge of trying to get people to share as much information with them as possible. I’ve found it sometimes just takes a bit of time to pull it out of them for them to really open up.
“It’s definitely not a rigid thing, it’s much more fluid and it’s definitely much easier for us because we’re a small business (35 staff) and we have an open plan office. It’s not a cultural challenge for us, we just do that now. It’s a constant feedback loop.”
Image credits: Takumi