Why aren’t you talking to your coworkers?

I’ve been very fortunate to work with great clients from nearly every industry over the years. Being able to walk through the halls of brands with a rich heritage and history is humbling, and helping them with their marketing challenges is a privilege. Working with such diverse brands, I’ve been able to see how they work — not just with agencies, but also with one another.

Now, when I use the term ‘collaboration,’ I focus primarily on the greater organizational structure — disparate teams spanning the course of a few floors, a building, a corporate campus, or even across the globe. There are silos all over, so what do we need to do to break down the walls and work with one another to provide a culture of learning and real collaboration?

It’s easy to see that each organization is truly different, leveraging suites of tools to ensure knowledge is shared and communication is easily facilitated. This still doesn’t substitute face time, but it is a way to help bridge a distance gap. When corporate-level tools aren’t available, things can run a little wild — allowing individual groups to use different toolsets and silo themselves further.

Why are teams creating their own bubbles, and why are companies letting it happen? I’ve always been a fan of cross-functional teams, which allow people to span alignments, clients and projects. Cross-functional teams meet, collaborate and help solve problems objectively — without consuming the client’s Kool-Aid.

So why is this important?

  • Awareness of your own team: Understanding your own team’s strengths and weaknesses is paramount to streamlining process. Do you know how other teams or departments handle everyday tasks? You might soon realize the ways these have been done aren’t necessarily the best or most efficient.
  • Combining of resources: Brainstorming to solve a common problem is all too familiar, but have you brainstormed with a member from other department? You’d be surprised by the wealth of knowledge members outside your own team have been exposed to, from solutions that simply didn’t work, to unique ways of working through challenges.
  • Wearing down friction: Think of the inefficiencies generated from not knowing whom to turn to for specific problems, or recreating the wheel when others have created the same presentation, learning materials or documents for clients. That’s wasted time, and we know time is money.
  • Understand the long-term vision: What’s the goal of the organization, and what’s the common vision running through all teams and departments? Break down silos between divisions, and work together to see this vision through. Every team has their specific goal, but working with other divisions might allow teams to meet, exceed or solve common problems in more strategic ways.
  • Knowing what you don’t know, and learning from others: Ongoing education is so valuable for both you and the company, and not just learning through online portals. Take an opportunity to grow and appreciate other team structures, workloads and the experience of your coworkers. Volunteer to help brainstorm on a project you don’t work on. You’ll be surprised at what you can both contribute and learn.

Think about building relationships within your own company — walking over and discussing challenges with other teams face-to-face can make all the difference. Much is lost in translation over email. Ask colleagues in different departments about their challenges and learn from them. You might be able to help more than you realize.