The business case for increased collaboration in the workplace keeps getting stronger, according to Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.
A comprehensive new study conducted by Steelcase, a global offices services design company which is represented by Inspiration Office in South Africa, found 90 percent of people at work say collaboration is essential to create new and better ideas.
Business leaders are even more convinced: 93 percent believe it’s essential to a successful idea generation.
Galloway-Gaul said: “As teams increase their collaboration, teams innovate faster, achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. Profitability also increases.”
She added that the working world now requires rapid responses focusing on creativity, innovation and design, rather than solely on delivery. “To achieve this, work will increasingly be project-based rather than segmented by department, and will need to take place across teams and silos.”
She likened the approach to the difference between a soccer team and a swim team.
“Swimmers stay in their own lane, but soccer players interact and transition constantly, relying on each other to win. Teams today need to do that too — navigate a fast-paced flow, bouncing between team members, iterating and improving on each other’s ideas. Everyone is responsible for keeping work moving forward.”
But most offices are still designed to support individual work in a linear process.
“These businesses risk losing out,“ Galloway-Gaul warned. “Companies that promote collaborative work are five times more likely to be high performing, according to the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity.
“This drive for increased collaboration has led to the amount of time people spend on team-based work to explode, ballooning by 50 percent over the past two decades, according to The Harvard Business Review. Today, people are spending over half of their day collaborating with others.”
How should teams adapt to the increased focus on hyper-collaboration and the need for greater interdependence?
“Work is becoming much more dynamic,” said Galloway-Gaul. Teams are increasingly leading workshops, brainstorming, filling walls and whiteboards with content and coming together to share their ideas. Team members sit together so they can interact with each other in real-time, build cohesion and work faster.” She added, however, that they also need moments of retreat from the group to focus, absorb information and process their own ideas.
Another factor is the “Agile Revolution” which is increasingly taking root at work.
“Agile is a set of values and principles derived from software development and is now used by lots of industries to improve speed, flexibility and customer focus.
“Agile teams structure their work into a sequence of activities that guide them to execute quickly, monitor progress and re-adjust workflow. Their practice includes daily stand-up meetings, pair-based work and sprint reviews. These teams constantly shift between modes of work, working alone and together as the task demands,” said Galloway-Gaul.