From the ubiquitous Post-it® Super Sticky Notes to Post-it® Dry Erase Surface, Post-it® Brand offers a number of tools to bring out the very best collaborative experiences amongst your colleagues. However, we know that collaboration isn’t simply limited to tools — nor is it confined to a handful of techniques. To offer new perspectives on collaboration and its benefits, we partnered with The Motley Fool — a renowned leader in innovative collaborative experiences — to help understand their unique approach to make working together better.
Collaboration is undoubtedly a critical component in fostering innovation. However, with that focus comes a myriad of techniques that claim to truly unleash your company’s collaborative potential. The Motley Fool financial services company, however, has a completely different belief when it comes to collaborative opportunities and the productivity gains that can result.
Ultimately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to building and stimulating a collaborative culture,” says Mark Brooks, Chief Intelligence Officer at The Motley Fool. “You have to look internally and see what’s working.
“And sometimes you also have to let things happen, observe why they’re happening and build/test from there.”
For instance, the organization regularly hosts a free pizza lunch to bring various people together. While the benefits might notbe apparent on the surface, the potential for collaborative gains is immense.
“First off, it’s really hard to pass up free pizza,” notes Brooks. “But food and conversation tend to go great together. And with those conversations, people tend to learn more about each other — what they’re passionate about, how they communicate, etc. It might not be explicit collaboration at that point, but it could definitely lead to further collaboration down the road as we develop new projects that might bring various people and passions together.”
These inter-company “collisions” also take place amongst a variety of games and events that the company is nearly famous for. Besides hosting the Foolympics — a two-week, company-wide event in which teams compete against each other across a spectrum of challenges — the organization brings various people together through smaller, sure-to-be-talked about one-off experiences.
“We shy away from cookie-cutter collaborative activities,” says Todd Etter, the organization’s Chief Collaboration Officer. “For instance, we created a mini-golf course day in which teams would create a hole for the course for the entire company to play through.
“We’ve also hosted a petting zoo where people could hang out with various animals for an hour. We’ve learned that when people experience something new, it helps get them energized and talking about innovative and exciting solutions versus falling back into the routine of ‘this has worked in the past so let’s try it again’. The little things a company does can truly produce exciting gains — simply by exposing people and teams to new modes of thinking.”
Feedback is also essential to company’s culture as it introduces and tests new collaborative techniques and tactics. This approach is best personified by how they use their office furniture.
As Melissa Malinowski, Office Culture Director, notes, “In 2011, we moved our entire organization into one building and were looking for feedback as to how to organize the floors. The most feedback we received was from our tech team and the realization that because technology was always changing, we needed to account for the same flexibility in their workspace.”
“Because of the physical flexibility of the space, we now have extreme flexibility with the team. Where it used to take us an entire month to reconfigure the floor plan, it now only takes 90 minutes to move 80 people. New teams can form quickly and easily and arrange themselves in whatever formation they want…or even make a slight adjustment to their space so that they can simply hear each other better. But because we have the freedom to mix-and-match teams nearly at will, we can test different approaches to solving our business challenges without completely halting our day-to-day operations because of logistical concerns. And we can thank our tech team for helping come up with the solution vs. traditional ‘top-down’ thinking.”
While some companies might view these innovative approaches to collaboration as precious and proprietary, The Motley Fool believes that collaboration findings should be shared externally as well.
“We believe that ideas can come from anywhere — and if an outside organization has developed a novel solution, why not talk to them about it,” says Malinowski.
“We actively seek out relationships with other companies for this purpose and even have a position dedicated to facilitating these external partnerships.”
“After all, if you’re only listening to yourself, you’re missing out on a much more interesting conversation.”
The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company that provides financial solutions for investors through various stock, investing, and personal finance products. In addition, they’ve been heralded as one of the U.S.’s best places to work through a collaborative environment that brings all manners of expertise together.