This notion makes sense in theory, but team leaders, HR professionals or L&D personnel may wonder how to make it happen in reality. At BECKSearch, we recently worked with an accounting firm with staff across multiple geographies to do exactly this. We sought to bring over 100 people together who wouldn’t necessarily cross paths, give them a meaningful way they would converse around the business so that they could build understanding and empathy for what each other did and then collect insights from these conversations. There were three key things that we put in place to make this happen:
1. Put as much social distance as possible between each person around the table. Our algorithm has been designed to match people who are as far apart on a cubed matrix as possible. In the client’s case, we sought to match people who didn’t work in the same line of business nor in the same geography. There were other minor constraints and then the output was a tailored table plan which physically removed staff from their silos.
2. We designed a SWOT analysis concept with a light icebreaker at the beginning and playful tone at the end. Within the activity, we offered everybody the opportunity to contribute their views which were all equally valid. There wasn’t a prize for the best answer, nor was there any parameters for the “right answer”. All we looked for was inclusive contribution. This gave everybody “permission to come to the table”. While we invited individual contributions, we gave clear instructions that the format was predicated on interaction at the table level and so, the intention was to share your thoughts with your table members and then post your contribution to our dynamic whiteboard.
3. The final aspect of importance was to dedicate some time to looking at the responses on an audience wide basis. We did this in real time at the event itself and in some cases, levered visual design to convey key points. For example, we used a word cloud that gave a bigger font to a term if it appeared more often than in other cases. This facilitated further interaction at the tables as groups reflected on their discussion in comparison to what had emerged from everybody. We also prepared a full report and debrief for the client. We had the time and space then to consider any biases (e.g. the content discussed during the day is likely to be at the top of mind and hence, an immediate memory bias could colour the responses). From there, the company could decide how proceed. In some cases, it wanted to respond in action (e.g. based on the feedback, we are going to do “x”), in communication (e.g. it appears that there is some ambiguity around “y” and we would like to clear that up) or not at all (e.g. some people want the company to pursue “z” but that simply doesn’t fit in with our strategy).
Therefore, in your business, it’s more than possible to facilitate cross-silo conversations with key ingredients in place including tailored connections, a themed discussion, an inclusive environment where a premium is placed on participation and a data method to “hear” everybody’s point of view.
Susan HayesCulleton is CEO of BECKSearch which offers enhanced peer learning for training and events. BECKSearch is Innovation Partnership between HayesCulleton Ltd, DCU and Enterprise Ireland.