Creating a Clique-Free Culture of Curiosity
Silos, cliques, groups, crowds. However you label them, they exist in your company's culture. They seem to be good things, at first: like-minded individuals, pushing each other and helping one another grow both professionally and intellectually. The common idea is that two heads are better than one: if you have a group of business analysts working beside one another, it’s better than each business analyst alone.
While that all sounds great, it could not be further from the truth. In today’s culture, we are seeing more and more of these focused groups; not only within an organization, but in professional groups outside of the workplace, whether they be Product Managers-only groups or UX Designers-only groups. If you want an organization to really grow, silos could be one of the worst concepts to implement.
What should you do instead?
Create cross-functional teams that have nothing to do with one another. This should not be confused with cross-functional teams on the same engagement. Put together a team of individuals who do not regularly work together and are not working on the same project, and they can learn from one another. Break the routines! The goal is to have your workforce mix and mingle with other specialties outside of their engagement. This allows them to bounce ideas off of one another, learn from their past, cultivate relationships that would not have happened otherwise (which builds trust on future engagements), and to learn more about what the organization is doing (not just what is occurring on their engagement and what is sent out in the corporate newsletter).
Encourage employees to change where they sit. I've recently begun moving around the office. It's amazing how much you can learn and how many productive convsersations you can have just as a result of changing up where in the office you sit and who you sit with. What if your organization does not allow this? Well, get up, move, and disrupt the status quo. We are professionals, not elementary school students with assigned seats! This isn’t the lunch room where jocks sit with jocks and band sits with band. We are grown adults! Order a few standing desks for your office and see how - or if - it leads to people breaking out of their ordinary routines.
Culture, when broken down, is dependant on the sum of the individuals that comprise an organization. To change culture means to change individuals; to start change you need willing individuals, yourself included. When individuals in your organization feel like they are part of a team beyond their smaller day-to-day unit, they are both happier in the workplace and a better representative of the organization as a whole. Let everyone get to know one another’s work better, and they will have a better appreciation for those in the corner of the office they don’t get over to much. Create a clique-free culture, and you create open communication among teams that will learn from one another to better serve your clients.