I’ll never forget sitting in a meeting with other department leaders, at my last job, and hearing that another department was working on the very thing that my department had been working on for months. We were a lean organization. No one had time for unnecessarily redundant work. And yet there were two departments working on the same project without knowing it.
As crazy as it sounds, this isn’t uncommon. People often know very little about what others across their organization do. Sometimes people on the same team don’t even know what type of work fellow team members are doing. This lack of knowledge can lead to conflict (i.e. get off my turf), wasted resources, and stale ideas. If you know two departments are working to solve similar challenges, sharing ideas is likely to generate better solutions.
Friday is National Swap Ideas Day. This sounds like a cheesy, invented holiday, but we’ve all been frustrated or constrained by a lack of sharing of ideas in our workplaces. So in honor of this invented holiday, here are five ways to find out what others in your organization are doing in the hopes of sharing more ideas and resources.
Workplace Communication Tip #1: This will sound basic, but be sure to let the people and departments impacted by your work know what you’re doing. I.e., if you’re advertising a new product, let the folks in fulfillment know they need to staff up the day the advertisement hits prospects’ and clients’ offices or they may not have enough people to fulfill orders. I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve made this mistake at Candid Culture. Oops.
Workplace Communication Tip #2: Create opportunities for departments who impact each other to communicate on a regular basis. Either literally get teams together quarterly to discuss what they’re working on, or if that’s not feasible, select liaisons from each department to meet regularly and discuss current and upcoming projects.
During the discussions, ask these questions:
- What are you working on?
- What challenges are you having?
- What are you trying to change?
- How can we help you?
- What are you working on that we could do together?
- How could our departments work better together?
Workplace Communication Tip #3: Widen your net and ask people you typically don’t have a lot (or any) contact with for their ideas on something you’re working on. Someone doesn’t necessarily need deep knowledge or expertise to offer a suggestion, they just need to think differently than you do.
Workplace Communication Tip #4: Be open to help, new ideas, and sharing projects. It’s easy to feel threatened and territorial at work, thinking that if someone else can do what you do, that you become extraneous. It’s not easy to find employees who are hardworking, reliable, effective, and low drama. Bring all of those qualities to work, and you have nothing to worry about. So start sharing.
Workplace Communication Tip #5: Keep up whatever idea-sharing practice you start. It’s common to try one of the ideas suggested above and then let the practice lapse when things get busy. Put processes in place to make sharing ideas the normal way that you work.
You likely have enough to do. You don’t need to be working on projects that someone else is working on. And sometimes hearing how a coworker would approach a problem will give you a solution you need. Share ideas. Work together across teams and departments and maybe you’ll end working less.