Break down departmental silos

Foster cooperation and innovation.

When it comes to fostering innovation, an EMC survey of 3,600 executives globally put “increase cooperation between departments”, i.e., breaking down silos, at the top of their list:

How to Increase Innovation - EMC survey

Given the EMC report didn’t offer too much in the way of solutions, relating to improving cooperation, here are my suggestions…

3 Ways leaders can increase cooperation between departments

Bust silosTell stories that bust silos. Stories connect. Tell stories that connect the dots, the discrete events in your organization’s life, into some sort of whole. “To break down the thick walls between departmental silos, build on the things all silos have in common: the sky above and the ground below, vision and values.” (Mark Goulston in Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone)   And, in your storytelling, focus on the positive core, of your people and organization. Appreciation may be our greatest psychological need.  Motivate others by creating and sharing your stories of collaboration.

Support those who are motivated to action.  When it comes to changing status quo, inertia is the default. Where motivation for change exists in the organization, whether because of need, opportunity, threat, etc., as leader, support it. Connect action-oriented people, while maintaing a light hand, in governance and structure. Think small, diverse, semi-autonomous, collaborative teams. Ensure leadership is present at the table, meaning action can be taken which has impact. By example; in the social innovation sector, the Constellation Collaboration Model is an exemplary model to follow.

Become conflict competent.  While conflict between people and departments is inevitable, ineffective and harmful responses to conflict can be avoided, and effective and beneficial responses to conflict can be learned. Champion effective conflict management. Model it. Mentor and coach others to become conflict competent. To get there quicker, leverage assessment Instruments such as the Conflict Dynamics Profile (my choice).

The Collaboration Coin

Cooperation and competition are two sides of the same collaboration coin.

Competition is not the only, or best?, path to innovation.

This was also born out in that ‘Outsource innovation’ was way down the (above chart) list. That was somewhat surprising to me, given I’ve directly seen the benefit of the open innovation model, via Ideaconnection. Then, it also doesn’t surprise me, given the challenges in getting companies to share their knowledge with outsiders.

Finding our way, we are.