The Internet has a forced a massive shift in the way we work. Once upon a time, all we had was a telephone and a conference room to connect with clients and colleagues around a project. Today, the Internet gives us the power to connect and collaborate using a variety of tools. Video conferencing, white boards, social media, online meetings, and document sharing tools have opened up spaces and given birth to truly collaborative work.

With all the good that comes with online collaborative tools, challenges still remain. Employees are engaging less in a face-to-face capacity. It’s common for many workplaces to experience employee silos with colleagues communicating via email or telephone even though they are only feet away. Idea generation most commonly occurs during structured team meetings and less frequently in creative collaborative group environments.

In fact, a 16-year study by Idea Champions claims that only 3 percent of the 10,000 people they interviewed said that they come up with their best ideas at work. The other 97 per cent said their best ideas come to them while they’re in the shower, on vacation, exercising, enjoying a glass of wine, or simply doing nothing.

This study suggests that while a structured, tightly scheduled workplace may foster productivity; an unstructured and more relaxing environment is what inspires creativity and collaboration. I always say, a sales team that collaborates together wins together.

Today’s CEOs and managers can re-establish open and collaborative workplaces by expanding creative spaces and making collaboration a priority.

Here a few tips for creating open and collaborative workplace:

Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming sessions are used to stimulate ideas, whether for solving problems, curating content for your blog, developing new products, or creating a plan to launch a new product. No matter what the purpose, there are simple ways to create an effective brainstorming session that will inspire your team and uncover brilliance in your business.

To create the best think-tank environment, managers should enforce a few rules:

1. Reserve Judgment
Brainstorm sessions are meant to be inclusive and not critical. All judgments should be reserved and all ideas considered.

2. Provide leadership and framework
Although it might sound contradictory, brainstorm sessions require leadership and framework. Without structure to keep conversations on track, the loudest voices in the room claim control and can stifle creative input from introverted and shy employees.

3. Identify Goals
Begin your brainstorming session with a clear idea of what you hope to get out of it. Provide an overview of the project and set the objectives of the session to help guide discussion and keep conversation on course.

4. Embrace the wild
As crazy as this might sound, the truth is, that some of the best ideas are born from the worst. Include ideas that sound crazy at first and work with them until they become a more feasible. After all, it’s easier to simplify an idea than it is to amplify one.

5. Quantity > Quality
The more ideas you have, the more opportunities you have. By removing judgments you open your team up to produce more ideas and avoid anyone getting caught up criticizing one idea over another.

6. Get out of the box – literally
Encourage your team to get out of the office for brainstorm sessions. Create relaxed and comfortable environments that are conducive to creative thought.

Create Functional Teams

Leaders can encourage collaboration by creating functional teams that put employees with required skills across multiple departments together based on project needs rather than the departments who own those projects. By leveraging team members’ strengths, managers can position employees for success.

One-On-One Meetings

Managers can inspire collaboration by regularly meeting with employees on an individual level. Recognizing your employees’ strengths and interests gives leaders a unique understanding of what projects and teams would be best suited for their skills. This empowers employees to feel confident and comfortable in presenting ideas and sparks creative thought because they are likely going to be more interested in and care about the work.

more interested in and care about the work.
Collaboration must be consistent and purposeful. Managers and CEOs should not only empower employee collaboration by creating environments that foster collective creativity, but also provide the tools and resources necessary to accomplish these goals.

What are some other ways that managers can create open and collaborative workplaces?