How to Create a Collaborative Company Culture

Mary Lorenz

They may be great at creating apps for everything from delivering wine on demand to helping you sleep better, but what Silicon Valley companies truly excel at building are collaborative cultures, according to Thea Singer Spitzer, PhD., author of “The Power of Collaboration: Powerful Insights from Silicon Valley to Successfully Grow Groups, Strengthen Alliances and Boost Teams Potential.”

Dr. Spitzer shared with CareerBuilder some of her insights from the book, including how Silicon Valley companies recruit employees with the skills necessary to thrive in a culture where collaboration is key. “There are skills every individual can have, can build and can use. These are foundational building blocks for a wonderful collaborative ethos,” says Dr. Spitzer. If you want to create a more collaborative culture at your company, look for candidates who possess the following skills and characteristics.

  1. Having a Drive to Succeed. “Success means different things to different people. For some, it might mean achieving a level of vice president at their job. For another, it might mean entrance into a national society of professional engineers. But there’s a common thread between all those [Silicon Valley workers], and that’s an inner drive that pushes them to accomplish whatever success means to them, at a much more driven level than other folks have.”
  2. A Desire to Contribute to Something Meaningful. “Again, the definition of meaningful is as personalized as the desire to succeed. For one person, meaningful is helping to find a cure for some terrible disease or working on the newest generation of smartphone that makes people’s lives easier. But the commonality is that it isn’t enough to have a great job and make a great salary. These folks want to be helping the world in some way while they’re doing that.”
  3. Persistence. “These people see problems and barriers as fun challenges. They get curious – they want to find the best solution, and they take it on as a puzzle. In essence, they act as a group version of Sherlock Holmes. So, imagine his skills, with the added advantage of a group’s collective intelligence. That’s what that persistence looks like. It’s highly effective and it’s targeted.”
  4. Acceptance of Difference. “The fourth one is a little trickier. The Silicon Valley leaders I spoke with and the people they work with try to accept others as equals much more than employees at other companies. They do judge others, but they judge them based on their knowledge, their skills, and their contributions – not on their nationality, sexual orientation, or other traits that have absolutely nothing to do with their job performance. That said, I have to acknowledge that Silicon Valley is not there yet. Clearly, there’s been a lot of press lately – and it’s been appropriate press – that they’re not totally inclusive. They’re not inclusive of women and inclusive of all people of color. So Silicon Valley is far from perfect in that regard. But that said, their employees are much more accepting of differences than many others I’ve seen and worked with. They’re farther along on that journey. And it makes them much more willing to listen to out-of-the-box thinking and ideas that others offer.”
  5. A Desire for Truly Genuine Communication. “This means conversations where people can express their views honestly, especially when they disagree. It’s about straight talk, and it’s about respectful disagreement about the contents of the issues, rather than personal attacks. These people are more willing to explore the assumptions behind their own thinking as well as other people’s assumptions, without getting defensive.
  6. A Connection to Company-Wide Goals. “They’re aware of the big-level organizational goals and how their work is contributing to them. And they buy in to those bigger goals. That isn’t true in a lot of places. In a lot of places, you have folks who feel kind of out in the woods alone, not sure whether or how what they’re doing on a daily, monthly or yearly basis is really contributing to company directions.”

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