A Roadmap for Building a Collaborative Startup Culture

Happy-employees.jpgCollaboration. It could very well be the organizational buzzword of 2015. Everybody, from the smallest of startups to the largest of corporations, has been talking about it. We’ve certainly been talking about it (but that’s nothing new).

But why is collaboration so important? And how can you build a collaborative culture at your startup?

construction.gifWhy is Collaboration Important?

Collaboration has become a cornerstone of the modern enterprise. Organizations have embraced the concept of accomplishing more when working together – whether it’s cross-team or cross-department collaboration, it’s the secret to getting more done together. It’s like the African proverb – if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.

Let’s say you’re designing a mobile app and have some of the know-how. The product is coming along nicely, but you hit a roadblock. A protocol or other user experience concern needs additional input.

You could slog through the hiccup on your own. However, is that the smartest way to go “far” in solving the problem? Wouldn’t the time to market lessen when working with a collaborator?

Working together can also help with quality. Two people working together could inevitably rub the wrong way—and that’s a good thing. Conflict leads to better solutions to the problem.

Plus, you become motivation for each other. It’s like having a workout partner who inspires you to push a little harder at the gym. Just when you’re about to give up, your partner convinces you not to. They know you can push past the resistance. They encourage you to give a little more effort, and, amazingly enough, you do.

Danny-Mindy-gym.gifBuilding a Culture of Collaboration

Collaboration doesn’t happen by accident. It requires time, effort and ongoing maintenance. To get started building a collaborative culture at your startup, follow this nine-step roadmap.

  1. Define and develop a shared purpose. Think of this as vision casting. Startups develop from their leaders and founders. But if you want the startup to grow just beyond yourself, think about purpose, mission, and values.
  • Why this startup and not a different one?
  • Why this problem and proposed solution?
  • What drives you when you’re tired and want to give up?

The answers to those questions define the business. They make you stand out from the competition, and they give employees, even if it’s only potential ones at this point, something to hold onto and champion.

  1. Involve cofounders and executives. If you aren’t a one-man band, involve cofounders and other executives in defining your purpose, mission and values. They are a part of the startup story. Plus, involving them in the process means they’ll live out and share the brand message with employees.
  1. Gather employee input. If you have people on the payroll, ask for their input.
  • How would they like to see internal communication change?
  • What is their definition of the company and its mission, purpose and values?
  • How would they like to work together?
  • What rewards for projects and collaboration would excite them?

Besides getting some great feedback about how you’re doing as a leader, you’ll also get some employees who will lead the collaboration charge. They’ll communicate company values as peers, even as executives share them from the top-down.

  1. Welcome outside ideas. Sometimes, the answer to a problem is glaringly obvious to someone who isn’t working on it day-in and day-out. So involve everybody. Ask the marketer or HR person what they see. It could be something you don’t or can’t see because you’ve been looking at the problem for too long. It’s like proofreading your work – at some point, you become so numb to it that typos slip right by you.
  1. Set up processes that enable and empower people to work together. Company-wide emails are not how to operate a business in today’s world. Does anyone really want to be held hostage by a “reply all” chain? Implement more flexible processes, like the ones found with wikis, chats and other social intranet capabilities.
  1. Create an infrastructure that values and rewards collaboration. People sometimes need encouragement to embrace collaboration. Workers across all generations – from Baby Boomers to Millennials – need a little help inspiration and training when social intranets and new ways of working are introduced to the workforce. No one gets collaboration right off the bat, so implement processes and rewards like cross-departmental teams, company-wide happy hours and monthly shared meals.
  1. Leverage employee’s unique talents. As people work together, untapped talents will begin to emerge. Foster them. Equip employees with the tools and training they need to see their talents come to life, not only for the company’s benefit but also for theirs. Few things are better than seeing people come into undiscovered talents and owning them.
  1. Get to know each other. It’s important that people know how their coworkers operate. Have your employees create a basic personality profile on your social intranet. People should share their interests and what makes them unique, as well as how they like to work.
  1. Train, train, train. Collaboration occurs through time and effort. Hold trainings and workshops to share best practices for using the social intranet. Give people the resources they need to succeed, and they will.

Creating a great culture at your startup, especially one built on collaboration, is critical for a company designed to deliver innovation. Following this nine-step roadmap will get you on the right track to working together – and getting more done to boot.

To discover how a social intranet can help your organization work more collaboratively, sign up for a free trial of Incentive.

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