Within larger organizations one of the biggest obstacles to innovation is poor internal communication. A silo mentality develops so that departments guard information and ideas rather than share them. People work hard – but in isolated groups. Internal politics can compound the problem with rivalry and turf wars obstructing collaboration. It can reach the ridiculous stage where the enemy is seen as another department inside rather than the competitors outside.
The leader has to tear down the internal fences, punish internal politics and reward cooperation. This sometimes calls for drastic or innovative actions.
Nokia has an informal rule that no one should eat lunch at their desk or go out for lunch. People are encouraged to eat in the subsidized cafeterias and to mix with people from outside their department. They have found that the informal meetings across departments are beneficial in sharing ideas and understanding.
Every organization has to find ways to promote internal communication and collaboration and to fight internal division and competition.
It is natural for departments in organizations to become more insular. As the organization grows, good internal communication becomes more and more difficult. There was a saying in Hewlett Packard: “If only HP knew what HP knows!” Very often the knowledge and skills needed to solve your problem exist elsewhere in the company. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are essential for innovation success. A key responsibility of the innovative leader is to constantly fight the silting up of the internal communications and to force contact and sharing between departments.
By Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane is the author of The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation. Find more information at destination-innovation.com.
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