Countless studies have proven that innovation happens when content expertise is matched with creative, nonlinear thinking. It’s also true that diverse teams are better teams. Across the board they are more efficient, more innovative, and more successful. Diversity is possible with collaboration.
“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.”
– Katherine W. Phillips, Scientific American
Here are three ways you can perform better and enhance creativity by increasing diversity and cross-functional collaboration at work:
- Open the feedback loop
- Hold cross-functional meetings
- Use a common platform for collaboration
Open the feedback loop
You’re stuck and you just can’t think of the solution. Chances are you’re circling through the same ideas alone or with people who are similar to you in job function or area of expertise. To get out of your work rut, invite someone who has a different set of skills to provide an opinion. Feedback from outside your group can provide a different perspective, and may lead to a burst of creativity big enough to make the difference.
You’ve tried reconciling a new building footprint for two days straight and shown it to your colleagues but are struggling to find a solution. You know there is a more optimal site layout. Speaking to someone outside of your department with a different background can add diversity and creativity to your process. For example, including someone who has site or civil engineering experience could spark new ideas based on earthwork or drainage. Speaking with someone in business management could improve building organization.
Both examples have one thing in common: they don’t have the same creative limits that you may experience from years of experience in your field. This fresh input may push the boundaries of what’s possible, and that’s where innovation happens: on the edge.
With fewer boundaries in creative input and less risk attached to the outcome, other perspectives can open the conversation to new ideas, and even spur some of your own.
Collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders and investing in project transparency often leads to innovation. Having cross-functional meetings can facilitate decision making and drive the design process to an energetic, creative place.
Get proactive: have meetings with different but related teams. Differing opinions can be better for business than homogeneous voices that are used to each other and the outcome.
And most importantly, in a transparent collaborative process, your immediate team will feel valued and involved in researching and decision-making, which increases their commitment and investment in the project.
Use a common platform for design collaboration
Collaboration tools enable cross-functional teams to work together, effectively bringing otherwise disconnected teams together and enabling seamless access to shared assets. Sharing, viewing, and commenting on project files opens the feedback loop and enables different teams to work on the same project wherever they are.
“…value will come from connectivity, data, collaboration, feedback loops, and learning—all of which can lay the groundwork for new and more powerful business models.”
Hagel, J., III, Brown, J. S., Kulasooriya, D., Giffi, C., & Chen, M. (2015). The future of manufacturing. Making things in a changing world. Deloitte Center for the Edge.
For example, if you are struggling with a particular MEP layout issue, ask someone in the environmental design department to weigh in on it. If you are making proposals on a renovation site, invite the real estate team to the table. Expand your circle, it’s easier now more than ever to do so: “As knowledge and information are digitized, it’s easier than ever to learn a new skill or connect with experts in any field…” (Hagel, 2015).
Collaboration across geographic location, department, and skillsets all bring the same thing: new opinions—fresh air.
Working within your group or your area of expertise can create good outcomes, but widening the view to include different perspectives will create brilliant, new outcomes that can likely see more success.