Apple and the Key to Successful Collaboration

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If you’re looking for a refresher on the value of integrating teams, look no further than Mashable’s latest piece on Apple, in which marketing executive Phil Schiller talks about how the company’s industrial and design teams work together to improve on products.

Back in the day, Schiller told the Website, “The industrial design team might create some models and designs and those may not reflect the product that was ultimately made or they may not result in any product at all.”

Rather than have the design team hand off its work to the industrial team, employees from both groups now work together from the beginning of the process. An emphasis on preserving institutional memory also helps; knowing what worked in previous iterations allows the teams to rapidly evolve current designs. The result is products that are massively profitable.

While Apple has billions of dollars and thousands of brilliant minds to throw at its issues, virtually any company can benefit from collaboration. In this day and age, a big element in any successful in-house partnership is analytics; reports can inform tech pros about any pain points to address, or which market-segments to target with new offerings.

Collaboration is also a matter of physical space. Where will teams meet, and how often? Are there offices or “zones” for collaborative work to take place? If teams are remote, what tools will they use to share information? (Setting standing meetings in a fixed location, or via a conference bridge, is a great way to set up teamwork.)

From a management perspective, successful collaboration hinges on ensuring that everybody feels they can freely share their ideas. It’s important for all employees to have a chance to speak—especially more introverted ones who may nonetheless come to the table with fantastic concepts in mind. At the same time, it’s important to structure interactions to avoid arguments and negative confrontations; nothing will get done if teams end up at each other’s throats over resources and territory.

Before the collaboration begins, ensure there’s a definitive goal. For Apple, this part is easy: The company needs to issue new versions of its products every year. For teams not necessarily tasked with pushing out a new consumer items, deciding on an end-point might be a little harder; without one, though, everyone involved in the collaboration will question why they’re participating.

Image Credit: Rido/Shutterstock.com

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