Nonprofit: Effective collaboration for innovation
Build your nonprofit by spending just a little more time building your team’s ability to collaborate. Recently, Google® and the Future Foundation found an 81 percent correlation between collaboration and innovation, meaning the more you collaborate, the more creative you’ll become.

Collaboration is especially important to develop if you have part-time staff members. A fine-tuned ability to collaborate will inherently help people work well together despite the difference in their schedules. Full-time or part-time, real collaboration is a results-oriented effort. So, prepare to unleash new ideas and get things done!

The three key ingredients

You need three things in order to make meaningful strides towards more effective collaboration. First, (of course) you need a firm foundation of trust, but you also need the ability to manage (and embrace) conflict as well as the right environment for idea sharing. Explore the basics of each and find out what it takes to really get the innovation juices flowing!

How to build trust
Trust might seem like an easy concept to grasp, but actualizing it is a little more complex. Here are some simple ways to start building the trust within your organization:

  • Promote trustworthy people. Recognize people you know are honest and responsible in both their personal and professional lives. They will set good examples for the others to follow.
  • Work with your staff. You may be directing or managing a nonprofit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working alongside other staff members. Take advantage of group projects or tasks that require many hands so you can spend more time with your team.
  • Make work about more. Revisit the mission and vision of your organization. Spare a few minutes at a staff meeting so everyone can share what moves them to do what they do. Hand out heart-felt bookmarks with the mission and vision emblazoned on them as reminders.
  • Reduce pay inequality. If there are glaring differences between staff member compensation, take steps to bridge the gap. That way people are able to feel like they’re on a level playing field.

How to manage conflict
How do you deal with conflict within your ranks? Do you avoid it? Do you try to diffuse a possible conflict? If you intend to foster real collaboration, you have to be willing and able to address conflict when it happens and when it escalates.

  • Have a method. If you don’t have one already, come up with one. Do it alone and present it to your team or develop the method together in a team activity.
  • Make the method transparent. Once you’ve got something solid, make it accessible and visible to all so everyone knows what to expect when there’s a potential problem. Display the method in your office with the help of a few poster reminders.
  • See conflict as a way to coach. When conflict occurs, use that time to have a candid conversation about what happened, but don’t spend too much time placing blame. Instead, discuss what to change moving forward.

How to create the right environment
Have you ever gone into a local coffee house and noticed how people are busy reading or writing or working with others? It must be something about the atmosphere in a coffee shop that inspires collaboration and ideation. So, how can you make your facility more conducive to those things?

  • Open up. Literally. Are there any easy ways to open your workspace to make idea sharing easier? Would something as simple as a dry-erase board or a message wall for Sticky Notes™ make a difference? That way, employees could leave notes for one another so everyone stays in the loop.
  • Open up the floor. Ask staff members what they need that’s lacking. What would help them work together better? Start the conversation with a few ideas: Would more meeting time help? How about a few more team lunches? Or, maybe it’s as easy as looking more like a team to feel more like a team… sounds like organization apparel like shirts or jackets are in order!

Tie it all together
Like trust, collaboration is an easy enough term, but knowing the term doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to turn into a reality. For a more in-depth review of collaboration for innovation, check out the latest Blue Paper®, podcast and infographic on Effective Collaboration.

Google Decisive Decade Report. Rep. Google, Inc., Nov. 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

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