A Look at the Importance of Collaborative Teams in the Tech Space
Larry Alton
JUN 30, 2015 19:46 PM
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A Look at the Importance of Collaborative Teams in the Tech Space

by Larry Alton

There’s an old worn out saying that goes like this: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” And despite being overly used and regurgitated, it’s a true statement. Whether it’s in a sports arena or a downtown office complex, teams are built on the premise of “we” – not “me.” This is especially true for businesses and brands in the tech space, where collaboration fosters innovation.

Why Team Building Matters in the Tech Space

It’s been proven over and over again by respected industry resources that strategic collaboration fuels innovation. Let’s review five main reasons before diving into how you can tangibly help your teams improve in this area:

  • Associations. In a very basic sense, collaboration exponentially increases the likelihood of associations between ideas. The more ideas you bring together, the higher the chances are that some creative connection is formed. The best ideas/products are the ones that don’t have a true inventor - when nobody can truly take credit. In these instances, so many different people played a role in the product’s development that credit must be evenly shared.
  • Speed. Even if one person is responsible for an idea, collaboration amongst teams speeds up the necessary iterations. Issues are fixed faster, problems are fleshed out, and features are validated. In a modern world where the business that’s first to market often takes the largest piece of the pie, speed is everything.
  • Connections. An idea or product is only valuable if it’s successfully brought to market. Naturally, more people means more external connections. Every individual on the team will bring some sort of connection. It could be capital, supply chain partners, marketing and PR experience, or anything in between.
  • Energy. It may be easier to deal with issues when only one or two people are in the room, but it’s rarely constructive. Teams of people bring energy, controversy, debate, and feedback. This energy can help an innovation overcome resistance or doubt.
  • Implementation. Finally, collaboration ensures ideas actually reach the implementation stage. Too often, when an individual is attempting to bring an idea to market, they get scared away by risk. However, when you have a team of people ready to help, the likelihood of reward seems much greater.

3 Tips for Helping Teams Improve Collaboration

But how do you build collaborative teams in order to enhance innovation? Here are three specific and proven methods for doing just that:

1.      Encourage Execs to Set an Example

Company executives need to set an example. If you’re expecting your employees to work together in an effort to foster innovation, you must be willing to do it yourself. Stop looking at yourself like a superior, gather regularly with your key decision makers to make group decisions, and never alienate yourself from the organization.

 

Whether you realize it or not, your employees look up to you as an example of what collaboration looks like. You can decide whether that image will be a negative, self-serving one or a positive, team-building one.

2.      Hold Standup Meetings

According to Margaret Kelsey of InVision, the aim should be to build responsive teams. One of the best ways to encourage this is to hold daily “standup” meetings in which everyone stands in a circle and answers three specific questions. (1) What did you do yesterday? (2) What will you do today? (3) What impediments are in your way?

 

Answering these three questions forces team members to be accountable and discuss issues before they become major problems. A standup meeting should be 15 minutes or less and groups should be cross-functional in order to ensure every department or group’s voice is heard.

3.      Shift the Focus Away From the ‘Rockstar’

For some reason, tech companies like to call their developers rockstars, wizards, or insert any other hip title.  It’s a little silly, really. They’re skilled, experienced professionals – not middle schoolers looking for encouragement. And while they may serve the purpose of a rockstar for your company, you can’t treat them like that and expect everyone else to bow down like a bunch of groupies.

By calling a programmer or developer your rockstar, respected programmer Scott Hanselman says you’re doing three unfortunate things.(1) You’re setting an unreasonable expectation for average people. (2) You’re demotivating the team. (3) By telling someone they’re a rockstar, you may cause them to actually believe it’s true.

While the rockstar programmer may be a myth, the ‘rockstar team’ may be a reality. “In fact, it’s diversity of thought and experience in a team that makes a Rockstar Team – that’s what you really want,” Hanselman writes. “Put thoughtful and experienced architects with enthusiastic and positive engineers who are learning and you’ll get something.” In other words, either treat everyone like a rockstar, or don’t treat anyone like a rockstar at all.

Collaboration and Innovation

In the tech industry, innovation depends on collaboration. Very rarely will you see an idea come to fruition with only one person responsible for its development and production. Begin building collaborative teams today and experience the benefits tomorrow.

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