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Need Teams To Collaborate More Often? This Will Convince The Skeptics

Lisa Bodell Forbes Article April 22 22
Thought Leader: Lisa Bodell
April 29, 2022
Source: Forbes

recent study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that companies which promote collaboration are five times as likely to be high-performing. If your company defaults to silence and silos instead of cross-functional collaboration, introduce them to a technique called Sharing Works in Progress.

It’s among the most popular videos in my LinkedIn Learning course on collaboration and it’s ideal for kicking off a discussion about the value of teamwork. Ultimately, this technique should help people feel less possessive of their ideas and get them in the habit of leaning on their colleagues for idea development.

Start by alpha-ordering the room into teams and providing a flip chart and a bunch of sticky notes to each team. If you’re leading this exercise remotely, use Google Jamboard for a virtual version of the flip chart and sticky notes. For the next five minutes, ask each team to come up with as many ideas as possible to solve their unique challenge. To illustrate the type of challenge suited to this exercise, imagine that you’re a start-up mattress company and you’ve been tasked with partnering with a transportation company.

Don’t focus on the quality of the group’s ideas — just generate as many as you can. Then write or type each idea on a sticky note and place it on the flip chart. Now as a team, identify the most disruptive ideas, and then, choose only one. Write or type a one-sentence description of it on the top area of the flip chart and remove or delete all the other sticky notes.

To experience real-time collaboration, direct your team — and all the other teams — to migrate to whichever flip chart is to their right. In a remote setting, have Team A review Team B’s virtual flip chart, and Team B review Team C’s flip chart, and so forth.

You should now be looking at a disruptive idea on another team’s flip chart. After reviewing their challenge and disruptive idea, use sticky notes to build on their concept with as many enhancements as your team can in five minutes. Write or type each enhancement on a separate sticky note and add those to the flip chart under the selected idea.
Work quickly because your team should now shift to whichever flip chart is to your right. In a remote setting, direct Team A to review Team C’s virtual flip chart, and Team B review Team D’s flip chart, and so on. The new flip should display a new disruptive idea and a bunch of sticky notes with possible ways to further develop that idea.

Compare the team’s original challenge along with people’s ideas and enhancements. Then, in a civilized manner, take four minutes to identify on sticky notes all the reasons their ideas won’t work. Productive phrasing for your feedback might include “There are budget concerns about using X. Which less expensive options could be explored?” Or: “We anticipate some challenges to manufacturing Y. How could we get ahead of that?”

Constructive feedback is an uncomfortable yet vital step because collaboration isn’t just about more ideas, it’s about sharper ideas. In many cases, the path to a stronger idea requires us to point out concerns so we can come up with an ironclad concept.

Now head back to your original flip chart with the mattress and transportation partnership. On your flip, you’ll see further developments to your disruptive idea, as well as candid concerns. Taking all of it into consideration, what improvements can you make to your disruptive idea that also addresses people’s concerns? Take five minutes as a team to come up with a newly enhanced solution that you’ll present to the group.

Keep in mind that your solution should take consumers and competitors by surprise with its originality. A sample concept that’s come out of this exercise is Purple GelFlex Grid mattress technology incorporated into refurbished plane seats on United Airlines.

Most of us try to perfect concepts or prototypes before reaching out to others for input, but this exercise demonstrates the value of working together, especially during the early stages of idea development. Inventor myths aside, innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens when we’re leveraging each other’s collective experience and expertise. Sharing works-in-progress gets us comfortable with collaboration, which leads to better, stronger and faster innovations.

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