Have you ever been on a team that ran like a well-oiled machine? Where you were comfortable bouncing ideas off of one another, tackling challenges as a unit, and bringing together different corners of expertise that led to growth and momentum?
If you have, you know what a breath of fresh air it can be. Because we’ve all been on a team where we had to deal with siloes, a lack of motivation, or a me-first mentality that made collaboration nearly impossible.
Collaboration is the one skill that makes your team’s efforts and expertise either grow or stay stagnant. And with the right collaboration tools, frameworks, and communication skills, your team can feel empowered to do their best work together.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is team collaboration?
- Why team collaboration is important
- What does good team collaboration look like?
- Tips and resources for team collaboration
What is team collaboration?
Team collaboration refers to the process of individuals working together towards a common goal, leveraging their diverse skills, knowledge, and perspectives. It involves active communication, idea sharing, and coordination among team members. Collaboration can occur remotely, in-person, or a mix of both, as well as asynchronously or in real-time.
Why is collaboration important?
Collaboration enables teams to do their best work and is an essential component for problem-solving and decision making. Successful collaboration leverages a team’s unique perspectives, builds trust and empowerment among collaborators, and creates new avenues for communication in real time.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some of the reasons why collaboration is so important:
- People are simply better together
- It’s a gateway to unique perspectives and experiences
- It leads to more efficient processes and outcomes
- Collaboration is an essential part of problem-solving
- Team collaboration fuels growth and understanding
What does effective team collaboration look like?
Effective team collaboration is the cornerstone of success in the hybrid work era, leading to enhanced creativity, improved processes and efficiency, and better decision-making. Embracing collaboration as a core value and implementing the right tools and practices helps organizations unlock the full potential of their teams. These are some core principles and benefits of team collaboration:
Enhanced creativity and innovation
When team members collaborate and share knowledge, they bring together their unique perspectives, skill sets, and expertise, fostering a creative and innovative environment. Through brainstorming sessions, idea sharing, and constructive feedback, collaboration fuels the generation of fresh ideas and solutions.
Increased productivity and efficiency
Collaborative teams often accomplish tasks more efficiently by leveraging each member's strengths. By dividing tasks, sharing workload, and collaborating on complex projects, teams can achieve better results in less time.
Collaboration allows teams to benefit from collective wisdom, as multiple perspectives are considered during the decision-making process. This leads to more informed and well-rounded decisions, reducing the likelihood of overlooking important factors.
How to boost collaboration in team meetings
Most employees feel the most disconnected in meetings that should have been an email and that lack support for collaboration.
But meetings are great opportunities for teams to come together and collaborate on projects. They introduce opportunities to engage with other team members and get conversations rolling. By setting up the right meeting agenda with the appropriate team and clear expectations, you can build a platform for collaboration.
To increase meeting collaboration, establish a safe space where employees feel empowered to contribute.
A collaborative meeting will have five elements:
- Psychological safety
- Personal connections
- A meeting facilitator
- A collaboration stack
- Collaboration templates
You’ll help employees feel like their thoughts and ideas are valued and heard, so they’ll continue to participate in meetings.
Effective team collaboration relies on employee engagement and participation. When employees engage in meetings through participation and interaction, it builds teamwork and enthusiasm and increases team spirit.
To increase meeting engagement:
- Make meetings necessary and useful
- Get team members in the right mindset
- Create a supportive environment
- Open up collaboration
- Reflect on meetings
With these five tips, you’ll be able to boost team engagement in your next meeting.
Visual collaboration helps hybrid and remote teams work together asynchronously. It puts ideas onto paper and helps teams work together on a common project.
This is because visual collaboration increases efficiency when aligning teams, which allows for clear communication and the ability to bounce ideas off each other. And as digital whiteboards store information, it helps teams refer to workflows at a later stage.
There are different techniques you can use to ideate and collaborate together on ideas as a team in a brainstorming session, including:
The choice of technique depends on the goal of the session. The main idea is that you want to facilitate a conversation with the idea of “quantity over quality.” There’s no need to come up with a detailed solution.
Problem-solving as part of a group is something most people tend to either love or hate. When done well, group decision-making can help teams dig deeper into challenges, unearth creative solutions, and reach a consensus that makes everyone happy.
Get frameworks to help your team improve group decision-making that leads to better results, increased productivity, and better alignment.
How to support collaboration with strong project management
Strong project management supports teams in collaborating with one another without the roadblocks that make teamwork complicated. These practices put frameworks, team collaboration tools, and objectives in place that support a collaborative work culture.
When each employee takes part in collaborative project management, they have ownership and authority of the project’s approach.
Successful collaborative project management will follow four best practices:
- Empower your team with the right project management tools
- Incorporate agile methodologies
- Implement team-building activities
- Improve team communication practices
Your team will feel empowered to take part in planning and creating clear goals, and they’ll be more collaborative throughout the project.
Creating better remote experiences through teams that are supported with the right tools and frameworks helps distributed teams collaborate.
Templates are especially helpful in getting remote teams aligned and cooperating on the same task together. They centralize knowledge and ensure each member understands their roles and responsibilities.
Getting buy-in for ideas guarantees your team is on the same page. Employees need to feel that proposed ideas make sense and, therefore, are worth working toward.
To successfully get buy-in from your team, you need to:
- Build a compelling case
- Understand your audience
- Make it collaborative: Engage your stakeholders
- Anticipate and overcome resistance
- After the buy-in: Celebrate success
In the long run, these tips will help employees understand the needs and goals of the project, so they will want to co-sign the strategies involved.
Part of smooth team collaboration dynamics is understanding — and proactively avoiding — common challenges.
Some common roadblocks include:
- Low team engagement
- Unaligned goals
Understanding common challenges (and why they happen) allows you to prepare your team with the right frameworks to avoid any problems.
You’ll be able to:
- Provide actionable items
- Write productive meeting agendas
- Include the right people in the meeting
All of these factors contribute to how well your team will collaborate.
You need the right tools to improve team collaboration
Equip your team with the right tools that support their collaboration, both synchronous and asynchronous. That way, they’re able to share ideas easily and work together in ideation sessions.
This means there won’t be a loss of information, and ideas can live on and be shared within teams. In turn, teams can collaborate with shared knowledge and put ideas into action.
Understanding the difference between traditional and digital collaboration impacts how your remote and hybrid teams work together.
Here are four best practices for adopting digital collaboration in the workplace:
- Use collaboration tools
- Focus on productive team alignment
- Put a special focus on building engagement
- Introduce digital collaboration
It’s important to learn the skills and practices that help teams adopt digital collaboration for future teamwork and project management.
Tools have a big impact on how teams can communicate and collaborate with one another. From Microsoft Teams and Zoom for video calls to effective file sharing and communication/messaging with Slack, tools help enable your team’s potential.
For your teams to successfully collaborate, they need to be equipped with the right communication, collaboration, video conferencing, and knowledge management tools. All these tools and apps form an integral part of how teams interact.
Without the right communication tools, collaboration can’t exist. Without the right collaboration tools, knowledge and ideas don’t go anywhere, and without knowledge-sharing tools, ideas get lost.
Related: Learn more about Mural’s integrations with all your favorite tools and workflows.
Asynchronous communication creates an inclusive culture that allows participants to deliver and participate at all times. This solves the problem of information silos and the inability of geographically dispersed teams to work together.
Remote collaboration allows teams to work with increased flexibility, access to a wider pool of talent, and diverse perspectives and ideas.
For remote collaboration to be possible, it depends on the culture of the company. A company with a culture that values remote employees will equip its teams with the right tools and protocols. This creates a powerful combination that nurtures remote collaboration.
Team building is the foundation of team collaboration
Collaboration is strengthened when teams trust one another and feel comfortable sharing feedback.
This is because teams that have a strong bond trust one another’s opinions, know how to communicate, and respect each other — which makes them feel safe and supported to collaborate with one another.
Just about everyone has an experience with awkward team-building exercises. But the truth is, team building is important for bringing people together, helping them get more comfortable with working with each other, and establishing a baseline of trust and psychological safety. Without team building, your team's ability to function and get along may suffer.
Effective teamwork doesn't happen by accident. Team leaders need to be deliberate to lay the foundation for effective team collaboration. To improve teamwork, start by following these tips:
- Create opportunities for team-building
- Organize effective meetings that have an impact
- Rally around clear goals and objectives
- Build strong channels for internal communication
- Provide pathways for knowledge sharing
Trust is the foundation of team collaboration. It’s characterized by a high level of cooperation and mutual respect.
You need trust for teams to feel comfortable sharing and challenging each other. Team members should respect their team’s expertise and opinions in a conversation.
To build trust in a team:
- Set expectations and boundaries
- Create a space for psychological safety
- Demonstrate transparency
- Conduct team-building activities
- Hold regular one-on-one meetings to check in
- Communicate effectively
- Be the first to admit when you’re wrong
- Show appreciation for each team member’s contribution
- Celebrate milestones together
- Lead by example
Building trust with your team will support them to push through challenges and collaborate on initiatives as a unit.
Team-building exercises positively affect team collaboration and communication. They build upon interpersonal knowledge, which leads to better decision-making, strong company culture, and creative thinking.
Here are some work team-building activities to include in your workplace:
- Blind drawing
- Scavenger hunt
- What’s my name
- Group map
- Jenga questions
- And more…
These team exercises are helpful to build engagement before meetings or quarterly to maintain team spirit and boost collaboration.
Icebreakers are helpful in getting teams ready to participate and collaborate in meetings. They help activate employees before a meeting or a discussion.
Icebreaker questions could include:
- Describe your team in one word
- What is your proudest achievement?
- What is your favorite company value?
The beauty of icebreakers is that they’re easy. No preparation is required. This means you could jump onto a call and start engaging with your entire team in a matter of seconds. They’re also a quick activity that doesn’t take up much time, meaning your employees won’t feel like they’re wasting productive time.
How to improve team collaboration across cross-functional teams
Team collaboration includes cross-functional teams that need to align efforts and expertise toward a common goal. But cross-functional collaboration can be complicated, as each team has its own vision and department goals. When teams can unite expertise, then that’s when the magic happens.
Cross-functional collaboration helps different areas of a company solve problems together. This is because it unites different perspectives and forms of expertise.
To improve cross-functional collaboration:
- Create a collaboration plan
- Use the right technology
- Diversify teams to bring different perspectives
- Establish and reinforce shared goals
- Embrace feedback
In the long run, cross-functional collaboration improves company alignment, boosts innovation, and has the power to streamline processes.
Cross-functional frameworks provide a structure for teams to collaborate with one another in real-time. They improve the stream of information.
Here are eight cross-functional collaboration frameworks to try with your team:
- Establish why your team needs a cross-functional collaboration framework
- Set up a strong leadership framework
- Build a sense of team unity
- Establish a shared purpose with team agreements
- Create an organized system for task management
- Keep communication channels open
- Choose tools that make collaboration easier
- Use templates to kickstart cross-functional thinking
These frameworks will help teams pinpoint areas where their shared knowledge would impact the quality of a product.
Dev and Ops teams tend to be in a tug of war. But they need to work together to create high-quality products. That can be challenging, as goals and KPIs for each department are different. But ultimately, how well they collaborate will make both sides’ operations easier and more efficient.
To improve collaboration within DevOps:
- Prove the value of cross-functional collaboration
- Establish clear objectives to mitigate security risks
- Create scalable processes that empower teams of all sizes to collaborate
- Use tools that support cross-functional teams
- Use Mural for collaboration between teams
By improving the relationship between Development and Operations, you leave room for teams to collaborate on ideas seamlessly.
Team collaboration depends on company culture
A company culture that encourages collaboration builds an environment where teams come together to pursue common goals, build each other’s strengths, and problem-solve together.
The culture of a company affects employees’ willingness to share ideas and step away from a me-first mentality. It also shows the importance of sharing information and supports teams to work together.
The right collaborative environment will empower teams to contribute skills, experience, opinions, and ideas with a common goal of achieving goals together.
This requires strong management practices where teamwork is held on a pedestal. It needs to be encouraged and appreciated. In turn, this helps build a culture where employees see they are being valued for collaboration and will contribute more ideas. This guide provides a roadmap for team leaders to build an effective culture of collaboration in the workplace.
For workplace collaboration to be successful, teams need to tap into their collaborative intelligence and have foundations for collaborative design.
For effective collaboration in the workplace, you need:
Practices should also include helping hybrid and remote teams work together.
Silos risk the efficiency of collaboration because knowledge isn’t transferred across departments, and this isolates communication between teams. Teams lack awareness and are misaligned on goals.
By understanding the practices that break down silos, you can build processes for teams to share information. This allows them to feel the benefit of knowledge transfer and the final effect it has on the quality of the project.
A true marker of successful teamwork is how openly colleagues and team members share knowledge with each other. Building a habit of knowledge sharing ensures that teams preserve important information, break down silos, build a culture of collaboration, and improve organizational alignment across functional teams.
In this article, you'll get a toolkit for cultivating a habit of sharing knowledge sharing in your team.
The attitude and skills your company values and encourages in its employees affect how well teams feel the need to collaborate. Creating a healthy work environment to support collaboration is critical.
To help your team collaborate, you’ll need seven skills:
- Time management
Overall, these interpersonal skills impact how well employees communicate and collaborate with their team members.
Support successful collaboration with tools that facilitate teamwork
The main idea behind team collaboration is “the more ideas, the better.” In other words, teams that bounce ideas from one expert to another find creative ways to overcome challenges as a team. This synergy helps teams push through roadblocks and reach goals.
However, those ideas need to be collected and shared. It’s not enough to say an idea out loud for it to happen. Your team needs a supportive space for their ideas to live — and grow.
That’s where using a collaboration platform becomes foundational. You need a platform that helps teams communicate and create plans that become actions together.
The Mural platform offers team collaboration software that helps team ideas get realized on a visual canvas. This helps each team member be on the same page and working toward the same goal. The platform facilitates successful team collaboration because its digital whiteboards bring teams together, both in person and remotely.
Start your Free Forever account today, and let your employees improve their collaboration skills with a supportive platform.