Conventional wisdom dictates that staff working together will be more effective than they would be working on their own. In fact though research suggests that this isn’t always the case – what’s more important is how you get your staff to work together and in what context. Here we will look at how you can get your staff to work better through management and even office layouts.
For instance, if your employees have a repetitive task to focus on that doesn’t require creativity or teamwork then they will often actually work better on their own without distraction. Even some jobs that do require creative thinking can be hindered through group work due to a process called ‘the diffusion of responsibility’. In short, the fact that multiple people are working on a single project means that each person feels less responsible for the outcome and so feels less inclined to contribute.
On the other hand however, other tasks lend themselves better to teamwork where communication between different individuals with different ideas can lead to a wider range of solutions being put forward. Group brainstorming is a particularly good way to harness this creative thinking. Get everyone in a group to put forward their ideas and solutions to the problem at hand without leaving out the more outlandish ones. By trying every single idea without putting a limit on them, you will more likely find the ideas that have some practical application and be able to work from there.
Likewise you can also benefit from having your staff talk to one another between departments. This way staff with different expertise can share their knowledge and come up with ideas together that will work on every level – communication between the marketing department and the web design team for instance could result in an online marketing strategy that takes full use of the web and your website specifically.
To get your staff to work together on such tasks then you should utilize an open plan office so that they can all see each other and talk rather than keeping them in separate cubicles. Alternatively you can create a ‘communal space’ where staff can congregate and chat and this can help to spread ideas between departments while still giving individuals a place of their own to return to.
To make even more out of this you should also make sure to rotate your staff’s seating from time to time so that they get to interact with different members of the team. Studies have shown that groups are more productive and creative when they are newly formed – even if that just means introducing one new member. While a group might be highly creative then, you will not necessarily get the best work from them by keeping them in that formation – introducing a new member to the group will help to bring new ideas and alter the dynamic and improve output further. This will also help to prevent what’s known as ‘convergence and divergence’ which can lead to your team forming into smaller groups that then turn against one another. Make sure your office is designed such that moving seating is possible without too much upheaval to keep fresh energy in your workplace.