27th August 2018
Late last year, we commissioned a study by The School of Life, an organisation founded by Alain de Botton – the renowned British philosopher who has sold millions of book on topics such as social anxiety and happiness. Their research found that less than half of workers enjoy working in a team. It showed that collaboration isn’t something that can be taken for granted – but at Dropbox we believe it is key to allowing everyone to make their best contribution and unlock their creative energy. We teamed up with The School of Life because we wanted to dig much deeper into how we can achieve great teamwork. To collaborate well with your colleagues, you have to intentionally design collaboration within your team, for your team. What do we want to achieve? How can we do our best work every day? These are the kind of questions teams should ask themselves – and be able to answer in their own words.
Words: Adrienne Gormley, VP of Customer Experience at Dropbox
At Dropbox, our teams think proactively about how they can work together. Teams have created ‘Work with me’ documents, where each member essentially builds a profile of how they work, and how others can work with them. Teams use tools like Slack to communicate, build relationships, set transparent goals so everyone is on the same page, and work on passion projects to allow people to express themselves. Apart from it being useful to understand your colleagues better, this also builds a safe environment of openness, which engenders trust.
Collaboration takes planning. Think of a collaborative activity, such as brainstorming. To unlock the true value of a brainstorm, you have to think about when a team can all be free to meet, and when they need time to digest and process ideas afterwards. Creative thinking and good collaboration in groups requires not only that people to show up, but also have enough time to reflect on what’s been discussed. Teams need to understand how they work as individuals as well as how they work together, and they should design their collaboration practices around that. It may feel unnatural – even uncomfortable, to intentionally design your teams around a culture of collaboration, but it is worth the effort.
At Dropbox, we have also been looking at diversity within teams. Decades of research outline the ways in which diversity makes people smarter, and companies more innovative and drives the problem-solving potential within your teams. This is not only because you’re inviting different ideas, but because diverse teams also bring more rigour to their decision-making – precisely because they’re required to evaluate new perspectives. Teams prepare better when they know that the dialogue will contain multiple different perspectives and new information.
Diversity and inclusion is something we can all do – it’s not just a management activity that looks at hiring, performance management and other people-processes. Diversity and inclusion can be practiced by everyone. For example, we can all meet people and engage across the organisation – different teams, cultures and backgrounds. I encourage my team to have personal goals on reaching out to people and teams they don’t know so they can develop other perspectives. We also celebrate diversity throughout the year at events such as Women’s History month.
Working Together, from Anywhere
Here at Dropbox, we see the business value of creating a place where people can be themselves at work, because this environment engages every team member, encourages new ideas, and surfaces different viewpoints. There have been many studies on the correlation between how employees’ feel about their workplace environment and their creativity and engagement. So, we have invested significantly in physical spaces: using beautiful design and architecture, and building open-plan, quiet spaces as well as collaborative corners.
Highly engaged workers aren’t chained to their desk and usually have the option to choose where they work, based on the task at hand. More and more people are remote-working, across geographies and time zones. Less of the workforce is tied to an office, and that trend is likely to continue into the future. That’s why we’ve also invested in products that help teams work effectively together, no matter where they are located.
We passionately believe in a transformed work culture. One that allows every individual and every team to make the best of their creative energy to solve the business problems they face through better teamwork, and better collaboration.
Adrienne Gormley is VP of Customer Experience at Dropbox and is a WMB Gender Diversity Ambassador for 2018.