Teamwork makes the dream work. While the saying may sound cheesy, it also couldn’t be more true. The people who make up your workplace are a team, and if they don’t collaborate effectively together, productivity, innovation, and morale will suffer significantly, and a business or organization needs all of those things to survive and thrive. Why is teamwork important? Let’s get back to collaboration basics.

While we all knew that teamwork was important when we were in school, this lesson is sometimes lost on us in the workplace. We can grow competitive with and suspicious of our coworkers. Are they talking behind my back? Are they trying to take credit for my idea? Are they slacking off and expecting me to do all the work? What did my colleague actually mean when they asked me that question?

This suspicious attitude is poisonous to a team, and it can bring down an entire organization from the inside. The antidote? Effective teamwork and collaboration. 

So, let’s dig into all of the reasons why teamwork is important and break down some basic (but essential) strategies for improving collaboration with your team, stakeholders, and community.

Why is Teamwork Important?

Teamwork Increases Productivity

As the saying goes, many hands make light work. When people work together, the job can be completed more efficiently. Effective teamwork allows teams to get more done in less time. You could be the most proficient and expedient worker out there, but there’s no way you’ll be as productive working alone compared to several team members with a range of different skills and backgrounds working together. 

Teams can delegate different tasks to ensure each component of a project is being worked on by the person most skilled in that specific area. Productivity is continuous because each member of the team is working at once, as opposed to one person having to jump around between tasks or complete each component in sequence. 

Plus, when teams trust each other, which is the only way to enable true and effective teamwork, each individual can feel safe relying on their team members’ abilities, which will save time. Individuals won’t feel the need to double-check and second-guess their coworkers, as they will have faith they can get the job done. 

Teamwork Improves Problem Solving

Teamwork combines multiple perspectives and viewpoints, which makes for a diverse team. Each team member will have a different set of skills and expertise to lend to the problem at hand, so no stone is left unturned and no avenue is left unexplored. The more diverse your team is, the more effectively it can approach a problem from every angle. 

Most of the problems businesses and organizations face are extremely complex and affect a wide range of people with differing needs and opinions, which means there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. By involving as many perspectives as possible, every voice is heard, so problems can be solved more effectively for everyone involved. 

📚 Read our Introduction to Complex Problem Solving.

And the more a team trusts each other, the fewer conflicts will arise when discussing a problem and ideating on its solution. Team members will feel comfortable speaking up if they disagree with something, and, in turn, they also won’t get defensive if a team member (thoughtfully) pushes back on their idea or suggests a different path forward. 

A true, trusting team is made up of individuals who know they can count on each other’s honesty, integrity, and abilities. Everyone on the team has each other’s best interests at heart, so problems can be solved without creating other problems. 

Teamwork Leads to Better Decision Making 

Effective teamwork establishes trust, which leads to better decision making. When teams trust each other to make decisions, they are able to move through work quickly with fewer bottlenecks. They can gather constructive feedback from one another and troubleshoot with ease. 

When small decisions need to be made, the whole group doesn’t need to gather and debate because everyone on the team is capable and trusted to make the right call. This pushes work forward at a faster pace and allows teams to focus on more important issues—like how to solve complex problems.

Trust really is the name of the game here. When team members trust each other and each other’s intentions, better decisions can be made and implemented quickly. 

📚 Learn more in our guide: How to Make Better Decisions

Teamwork Boosts Morale

Teamwork and effective collaboration across teams also provides a significant boost to workplace morale. When you trust your team members and enjoy their company, work isn’t such a bad place to be. You can celebrate wins and take pride in what you’ve accomplished together. You can trust that your teammates will have your back and support you through thick and thin. And when you have this level of comfort and trust at your job, you’re more likely to stick with it,  which will lower the high costs of employee turnover and aid in employee attraction and retention. 

If a workplace struggles to work as a team, work is a pretty uncomfortable place to be—whether you’re sharing a physical office or a Slack channel. Will you be judged if you speak up? Will people think you’re stupid? Is someone going to try to take credit for your hard work? 

But when a team knows one another well and works effectively together, work isn’t such a chore. You can find more enjoyment and fulfillment in it, as you’re not just trying to make it until quitting time. Work isn’t a cutthroat competition that pits you against your coworkers. The workplace, whether physical or digital, is a place of comfort, support, humor, innovation, and creativity. Doesn’t that sound better? 

Basic Strategies to Improve Collaboration

1. Drop Judgment and Assumptions

A vital part of building an effective team is getting to know one another and accepting each team member for who they are. You can’t have real trust otherwise. 

Everyone has a unique point of view that comes from their background, the way they were raised, and the things they’ve experienced. Everyone also has different communication preferences, idiosyncrasies, and work habits. If you don’t take the time to get to know your coworkers beyond the first, second, and third impression, you’re going to harbor assumptions that will impede teamwork and collaboration. 

In order to work effectively together, you cannot judge your teammates or harbor assumptions about them. You need to build each other up, not tear each other down. Each individual’s differences must be embraced because they strengthen the team. 

Everyone’s differences will take time to get used to and appreciate, and the first step is leaving your assumptions at the door. Don’t assume; ask. Get to know your teammates and actively listen to what they have to say. Everyone on the team is there for the same reason—to do the best job possible for the organization. A win for you is a win for the whole team. 

2. Be Clear and Transparent

A team isn’t a team without trust, and if you trust someone, you don’t keep secrets from them. Do not keep your team members in the dark about workplace developments that will affect their lives, either professionally or personally. Be upfront about any changes or problems the business is expected to encounter because if you choose to keep people in the dark, word will get out anyway, only it will be in the form of rumors and gossip. 

Ever play a game of telephone? That’s what will happen in your organization when a piece of information moves through the shadows from one employee or stakeholder to the next. Each time the information is shared, it will change ever so slightly until it festers into a monster beyond your control. And each person will be forced to wonder why they weren’t trusted with the information in the first place. If you can’t trust them, why should they trust you? 

This is why it’s important to show your team members respect by being clear and transparent with them. Tell them what’s going on, what’s expected of them, and where you want your business or organization to go in the future. Keep them involved so that they can actually feel involved and like they’re a valuable part of the organization. 

Trust is what makes a team a team, so show your employees you trust them by always being clear and transparent. 

3. Harness Adaptability

Your way isn’t the only way when you’re on a team. You must be flexible and learn to adapt and grow with your team. It is vital that every perspective on your team is heard, and while you may believe you have a great idea, it’s important to listen to other points of view and take in what everyone else has to say. 

It’s possible, and even pretty probable, that there are areas of your idea or innovative solution that another team member has more expertise in and experience with. If they tell you an aspect of your idea might not work, it’s important not to grow defensive. If they provide you with constructive feedback, don’t ignore it—put it to use. You’re on the same team. You’re all there for the same reason, so listen to each other’s ideas and be willing to hear each other out. 

Your ability to adapt is vital to your future success. It’s how we learn from our mistakes, handle unexpected changes, and adjust on the fly. Don’t assume your idea or way of doing things is the right one. Anything can be improved. Listen to each perspective, be adaptable, and commit to continuous improvement.

4. Collaborate Inside and Outside of Your Organization

You can’t work in a vacuum, so don’t only focus on improving collaboration between immediate team members. It is critical to your success that you also factor in your stakeholders, customers, and larger community. 

Collect feedback and continually adapt. Don’t assume you know what’s best based on information you received five or even one year ago. Get to know the current needs and desires of your customer base and work with them whenever you can. 

Things change fast, and if you’re not regularly checking the pulse of your customers and community, you could easily be left behind. So continually bring in your stakeholders and ask them their opinion. Reach out to your customers and ask what you could be doing differently. 

Don’t sit back and wait for a problem to arise; gather feedback from inside and outside of your organization on a regular basis so that you’re always on the cutting edge, delivering a product or service that’s tailored to the people who need and want it most. 

Invest in Human-Centred Collaboration Training

Invest in the wellbeing of your team with human-centred collaboration training. Methodologies rooted in design provide a framework that focuses on the best ways to collaborate with the real people you work with, including your team, stakeholders, customers, and community. 

If you want to continue developing your collaboration skills, take part in Overlap’s Creative Problem Solving School. We carefully crafted a suite of courses to bring design thinking training to everyone. Our wide range of courses includes practical and engaging materials that will help you work better together, understand your customers, and navigate complex challenges.

We have an entire course series dedicated to improving collaboration and teamwork. Our Foundations in Human-Centred Design Certificate program includes: 

With this series, you and your team will learn how to better collaborate as a team, as well as how to work together with your stakeholders, customers, and community.

The Exploring Complex Problems teaches you to describe the problem as it is currently understood. You’ll explore how to do the homework around the problem space in a human-centred way to better understand context and develop launch points for solution generation. 

The Building Innovative Ideas course will deepen your understanding of how to come to better solutions through structured collaboration and then build out those solutions in a tangible way.

Finally, the Making Better Decisions course will teach you the importance of feedback on your solutions as you refine them as well as simple yet powerful decision-making tools for choosing directions, setting priorities, and reaching consensus in a group.

View our full list of courses for the latest available training sessions, and reach out to our team for more information on group training and our current course bundles.

P.S. We offer discounts for groups of more than eight participants!