Successful product design consultancy IDEO, based in California, have come up with an unusual concept as a cornerstone of their company culture. They believe in ‘collaborative helping’ – essentially, sharing knowledge and ideas, not only with fellow workers but with clients too. To me, when I first came across it when researching my series of lectures on Leadership, Teambuilding and Managerial Creativity, this seemed like the antithesis of good business practice, and I wanted to know how they had managed to make it work.
In my early career, knowledge was king. The best way to protect your own job and keep your company one step ahead was to keep your knowledge to yourself – to make yourself indispensable. Not so these days, it seems. IDEO have found that by encouraging the exchange of ideas and knowledge, employees complete tasks more quickly, grow in confidence, and enjoy a feeling of ‘ownership’ of projects, however peripheral their involvement. And to do this, the company has to build ‘slack’ into the system, to allow time for all this helping, which they claim then leads to greater efficiency overall. Maybe it’s time, then, for all of us to ‘let it go’.
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