Our global economy is complex and rapidly evolving. To keep up, organizations need a competitive edge. However, the race is not only about keeping up, but staying ahead of the market rate. With this in mind, how do leading companies remain competitive? Arguably, top-performing organizations are integrating knowledge sharing as a collaborative tool into their workflows, creating interaction cross-departmentally. This process breaks down silos, while creating a stream for the free flow of ideas and increasing the speed of knowledge transfer. These are the organizations to out-perform. And here is where you can start.

The power of a common goal

For not-for-profits, the power of a common goal carries the organization—this goal is their mission. If each individual within the not-for-profit has been carefully selected, he already bought into that common goal. For this reason, everyone is intrinsically motivated to increase the reach and scale of the mission, so provide the outlets for them to do so.

In for-profit companies, while there is still a mission or vision, it may not be as deeply engrained in the culture of the organization. For example, Apple’s mission states: "Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software, and Internet offerings."

The lesson here is that in any organization, everyone is working toward a common goal and should be held accountable for doing her part to ensure that goal is met. Using the power of a common goal facilitates the combining of different forces to work on projects and solve challenges. By creating these outlets for cross-functional collaboration, you merge talent, enable relationship formation across the organization, and empower your team to share information and knowledge with each other informally.

Creating an outlet

How can you bring individuals from different departments together to reach that common goal? Look for similarities, and find creative ways to people to work together. Take, for example, three typical not-for-profit departments that have very different purposes: fundraising, sales, and program delivery. Think about what these groups have in common. One, they all interact with external key stakeholders. Two, they all promote the organization. Three, they all are generating revenue. Although each department has a different agenda, the goal is the same: Engage the stakeholder and motivate him to become involved with the organization either by making a donation, buying a product, or using the services. Providing an outlet for these teams to work together allows individuals to share strategies for engaging stakeholders, ask for help on challenges, and spark new ideas. Collaboration between these three departments builds organizational efficiency and strengthens the stakeholder base.

Have you ever sat in a room with 10 of the most intelligent people you know? Or listened to leading experts on a panel at a conference? Think about what happens. It does not matter what their background is—whether they are chemists, social workers, engineers, artists, or psychologists —if you provide an outlet for them to share their experiences and learning with one another, you combine knowledge and allow the individuals to build off of each other’s ideas. The end result is a masterpiece.

If you are not giving your staff similar outlets for cross-functional collaboration, or you are not receiving such opportunities yourself, then your organization is missing a huge opportunity. Become an advocate for cross-functional collaboration, and watch your organization grow!

To read the prior blog post in this series, go here.