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Stop Hoping for Collaboration, Here Are 7 Tips to Help Plan for It

We've been discussing collaboration quite a bit lately - showcasing collaborative spaces, and providing planning assistance for bringing collaboration into the office. But today I wanted to focus a bit more on how a collaborative work culture is created - and that you should proactively plan for collaboration rather than just hoping for it to happen.

First of all, what is collaborating? One definition describes it as "Working with others collectively to create content, brainstorming, etc. Ideally, all perspectives are valued and brought together to leverage a group’s shared mind." Though not mentioned, it seems that one of the most important things to remember about collaboration is that it happens fairly spontaneously. Good collaboration in the office never occurs when someone says, "Okay, go collaborate for five minutes." Typically, the best collaborative efforts happen throughout the day, as needed. But sometimes collaboration can be stymied before it begins because offices are inadequately arranged to allow for it - either because of a lack of space, lack of resources, or lack of natural collaborative features.

So to help you plan for collaboration in the office, here are seven helpful tips to get your organization collaborating:

  1. Consider breaking down silos between teams by providing shared casual space for information encounters and sharing work.
  2. Plan every setting as a collaborative work culture to maximize the opportunities for collaboration. Provide technology supported tools and shared vertical elements (screens, whiteboards, tack space) to enable the exchange of tacit knowledge.
  3. Enable workers to have choice and control of where they work by providing a range of settings to support multiple work modes: focused, social, learning, and collaborative. Consider a range of “I” to “we” settings in open and enclosed areas.
  4. Consider that any space or affordance that’s more than 50 feet away from the workspace will typically not get used. Design meeting spaces, enclaves, project areas, etc., within close proximity of teams.
  5. Consider food as an attractor for bringing people together.
  6. Provide open settings where people can work while making themselves accessible to others.
  7. Encourage workers to switch where they sit on a regular basis to build stronger networks between people, projects, and ideas.

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