Can You Create Collaborative Individuality?

6 Feb

Collaborative IndividualityToday we’re back with our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

Much has been said about the burgeoning “knowledge economy.” As markets continue to demand highly skilled workers with extensive training and education, employers will come to value creativity, experience and know-how over anything else.

Especially among companies focused on technology and innovation, creativity is the new golden asset. Of course, ingenuity is notoriously difficult to gauge in a job candidate – let alone foster. The demand for creative minds has also sparked a debate about where workplace innovation comes from. Does is sprout from group brainstorming and collaboration, or is it more of a solitary, introverted endeavor?

Much has been written that suggests people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. The most creative minds, are only extroverted enough to exchange and advance their ideas, but they see themselves as independent and individualistic.

Clearly, this is at odds with the imperatives of an innovation economy, where the internet, social media and mobile technology encourage collaboration and advanced communication to solve problems and address new ones. This also applies to the workplace, which often relies on group directives to tackle projects or develop new ideas.

The challenge for managers is to balance individual habits with team directives, cites Inc. magazine. This means avoiding the collectivist mentality and encouraging cooperation. Collectivists, unite around a single purpose but ignore alternate paths to achieve that purpose. Collaborators, on the other hand, are focused on purpose but they arrive at their goals by including a variety of individual opinions and viewpoints.

In that sense, managers should encourage individuality within the team-based framework. Make each member of a creative project feel as though they have a unique mind that contributes a valued role to the overall venture. Inc. recommends a few ways to facilitate collaborative individuality.

1.) Encourage personal identity – Members of a team should build upon the contributions of others to achieve collective goals. This means embracing and even urging alternative perceptions and personal differences.

2.) Affirm purpose – Managers need to let their team members know why they are valued and how their input leads to organizational success.

3.) Reflect, as a group – Managers should stir the brainstorming process by posing challenging questions to reflect upon silently and then discuss as a group. Open-ended conversations should focus on “how” and “why” rather than established processes.

How else can managers encourage collaborative individuality?

Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.


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