Insights for innovation

Project Challenge

How might we encourage more purposeful collaboration in the workplace?

This five week Ideo course consisted of observing, identifying extremes, interviewing, empathy exercises, and sharing insights. During these assignments I observed how the importance of body language, team leadership, communications (face-to-face and remote), and technology helps to foster a team culture of collaboration.



Affinity Mapping – Overarching Themes

Leadership, Communication, & Inclusiveness 



Observing – Team Sports


The role of the coach is crucial to the success of the team. Setting lineups, leading team communications, and mentoring new members of the team is a major role played by any team coach. This applies to any team activity.

Open communication and transparency plays a huge part in building inclusive teams. The score sheet was the instrumental communication tool that provided clear direction to the team and to the opposing team.

Also, body language as a nonverbal communication tool is helpful to understand your team and your opponent.



Identifying Extremes

Below are examples of expertise extremes. Extremes are a great way to identify insights.



Interviewing Extremes


Junior Engineer

“Leadership is really receptive to opinions and that makes the team much more collaborative when it’s coming from the top. They’ve been setting the example for the rest of us and its been very beneficial for the rest of the team.”

“Leadership has been taught from manager to manager, leading by example, and that trickles down to the rest of the team.”

“Flexibility and work-life balance makes the team more open to what’s going on in everyone’s daily life, it’s shows they care about what’s going on with each person. This makes people more open to share their ideas.”

“You matter and it’s feels like you can have your say within the group. It’s how you treat the person as a whole.”

Chief Product Officer

“Everyone, including leadership, owns successes and failures.”

“I trust every single one of my leaders. I trust their perspective and what they’re bringing to me.”

“We were working in silos before. We’re actively trying to address those issues”



Empathy Activity


Expertise Extreme – Subject Matter Novice

Leaders are instrumental for successful collaboration. Agendas and goals help to keep teams on track when they are tackling tough problems. The importance of positive reinforcement helps to lessen anxiety especially for novice participants.

Established relationships, built on trust, enhances the speed and quality of team collaboration. This empathy activity centered around being an expertise novice and an outsider new to a team. This conversation moved extremely fast and I felt like an outsider. This caused anxiety that could have been addressed by inclusive exercises like introductions or regular q&a’s throughout the session. 



Final Insights


1. Leadership sets the foundation for purposeful communication.


2. An inclusive team means being empathetic to the individual.



Final Thoughts

Leadership sets the tone and their guidance should facilitate purposeful communication throughout their teams. Leading by example and mentoring are great ways to instill this atmosphere of successful team collaboration.

Communication is key to an inclusive team atmosphere. Verbal, nonverbal, written,
analog or digital forms of communication all play important roles to building relationships. Understanding the individuals on your team is vital for purposeful collaboration.