TOOL: Create opportunities for connection

Here is an important tool to add to your toolbox that doesn’t require an internet connection, or proper knowledge of emoticons.

It’s connection.

How can you create or find more opportunities to increase cross-functional support, empathy, collaboration and trust across an organization?

It can start with increasing the frequency and quality of interactions that your staff has with each other every day. It means increasing the ability to connect with your peers, share ideas, break down barriers and step away from your computer screen.

Create more opportunities for your staff to interact and get to know each other.

In designing the layout of Pixar Animation Studios, Steve Jobs famously requested there only be one restroom location  in the building – so that employees would have more opportunities for the kind of spontaneous interaction that fuels creativity. Today we see many companies bringing in catered lunches or creating cafeterias and open spaces which can encourage a sense of community, connection and camaraderie.

Sometimes building connections is as simple as providing opportunities for employees to work  with those they wouldn’t normally interact with.

The DreamWorks Improv Performance troupe is made up of wonderful people who represent almost every department at the company. We have animators interacting with visual effects artists interacting with engineers.

When there is a problem to solve across departments, these employees are no longer strangers to each other – they are allies and generous collaborators. The trust developed on stage carries over into the work environment and helps to build a stronger organization.

The more opportunities you can create to bring different departments, viewpoints and strengths together, the more connections will be formed to enhance the innovative and collaborative tendencies of your organization.

Step one to humanizing an organization is to create more opportunities for human connection. It starts with stepping away from the computer. 

Impressionism and spontaneity

On a whim, I visited the Legion of Honor in San Francisco this week. My dad is a huge history and museum buff and wanted us to see an Impressionism exhibit of artwork by Camille Pissarro.

Little did I know this would turn into a lesson about the power and appeal of spontaneity in a different art form.

I was reminded that Impressionist painters were considered radical in their time because they broke many of the rules set by earlier generations of artists. They found inspiration in life around them, instead of in history. They tried to depict what they saw at a given moment, observing more directly what was happening spontaneously around them. Their work wasn’t necessarily careful or smooth, they used simple compositions but took a great deal of care in their work. Painting a spontaneous scene took a lot of practice and skill.

Sound familiar?

Nobody said spontaneity was easy, but done correctly it can produce some of the most memorable and beautiful pieces of art – whether it’s a painting or a scene in an Improv show.