Let's face it not all companies have mastered the art of enterprise collaboration within their organization. However, 3M, the Post-it company, is a shining example that when organizational systems and culture needed to encourage and support collaboration are created, greatness happens.
This article in Business Week highlights some of 3M's projects which could not have succeeded if employees were not encouraged and expected to collaborate with teams. Filtek Supreme Plus, which is a strong, polishable dental material and the first to include nanoparticles would not have come to life if Sumita Mitra, a corporate scientist in the research lab of 3M ESPE and a scientist working in one of the company's four corporate labs hadn't worked together. 3M's automotive aftermarket division also collaborated with their corporate research lab to better develop a system for applying putty used to repair dents.
Their business model revolves around information sharing and this is why the company has innovated time after time. Here's what businesses can learn from 3M's approach to collaboration as detailed by Business Week.
Support networks. Build social networks to help employees that have problems find those who can provide a solution to it.
Build collaboration into your employee evaluation system. Be able to reward employees not only for developing and processing an innovative idea or technology but for spreading it as well.
Encourage curiosity. Allow employees some time to spend on personal projects. It will give them ample time to develop new ideas outside of their work focus.
Create innovation funds. Create an alternative source in which employees can go to for funding of innovation projects.
Don't underestimate the value of physical proximity. Make it easier for employees in different departments to visit each other. If this means having a free shuttle service then so be it.