Building a Collaborative Culture

By Bert Sandie posted 01-25-2011 23:13


The growth and evolution of Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business has at its foundation the creation of a collaborative culture that will drive the way we work, what we create, and how we run our businesses. Is there a magic formula or silver bullet for creating a collaborative culture? The obvious answer is “NO”, but there are many best practices and lessons learned over the past few years from a wide spectrum of companies leading the charge in how to do collaboration right.

A collaborative culture is an intricate and unique blend of many attributes including (but not limited to) work environment, people, leadership, opportunities/need for collaboration, business sector, geographic distribution, and supporting technology. Each company has its own formula on how it blends these attributes to create their own collaborative culture. At Electronic Arts (EA), we are still learning how to collaborate efficiently and effectively as we are constantly inventing and reinventing that way we work in a global organization.

Listed below are some ideas, best practices, and supporting images based on my own experiences working at EA in highly creative, fast-paced, and dynamic company who are constantly pushing the limits on how we collaborate.

Environment: The environment where people work on a daily basis has major influence on collaboration.

  • Fun – posters, lighting, cube customization
  • Open – open cubicle environment
  • Collaborative – whiteboard walls, work boards (i.e. agile walls),
  • Creative

          Figure: Example of Collaborative Team Workspace

          Figure: Example of a Fun Environment

People: The right people

  • Smart
  • Passionate
  • Active Listeners
  • Life-long learners
  • Open to new ideas and change

The image below is from our SIMS game which allows you to create a character…while it is not as easy to select the personality and attributes of a person in real life as it is in a game we do have a choice. We can decide on who we hire, how we expect them to act and behave inside our organization, and we have a responsibility to grow them to have all of the capabilities we need for them to be successful in our collaborative and engaging company.

          Figure: SIMS - Creating the Right People

Leadership – leads by example

  • Collaborative transparently and as part of their role
  • Actively use collaboration tools internally (wiki, social profile) and externally (blog, social networks)
  • Understands the business needs for collaboration solutions and helps fund them

Business Opportunities/Need to Collaborate

  • Formal – a meeting with invited participants with a purposeful meeting type:
    • Brainstorming
    • Problem Solving
    • Decision-Making
  • Informal and Social – are undertaken anywhere and anytime with no set purpose but often lead to great insight and solutions; often these happen at/in the:
    • Coffee Station / Water Cooler
    • Kitchen
    • Creative / Game Room

          Figure: Example of a Creative Room

Technology to support the quantity and complexity of the project. Selecting the right technology that matches the needs of the work that employees are doing. Critical things that are too often overlooked when selecting technology is the workflow required of the project-people to get their work done in an efficient and effective manner which requires solutions that provide natural usability. The common types of technology we leverage on different project across the company include:

  • Wikis
  • Microblogging
  • Social Profiles
  • Document Libraries & Shared Folder systems
  • Desktop videoconferencing (i.e. Skype, MS Live Meeting)
  • Digital Asset Management for images
  • Enterprise Search

          Figure: Social Profiles inside EA – Fun, Creative and Informative


In summary, each company has an opportunity to define, develop and nurture its own collaborative culture. Ideally, this culture addresses the needs of employees to collaborate effectively to execute on the business imperatives of the company. A best practice to help in driving this culture is to empower collaborative champions in your company to ensure that the right environment, people, leaders, tools, and technology are in place to allow effective collaboration that drive results. Finally, be patient as you define your collaborative culture as this takes time to get right, don’t be afraid to experiment, and allow the culture to shift and change to meet the needs of the people and the work over time.


Reference article from Business Week profiling the EA Burnaby Campus -

#technology #People #Collaboration #culture #E20
1 comment



04-28-2014 17:39

Good insights here. Many thanks. Interesting to see how leadership seems like the grease that's needed to ensure a smooth collaborative environment. "...understands the business needs ....and helps fund them". Collaboration in a technological era indeed re-examines our concepts and offers new worldviews.. Any unintended consequences of technologically-mediated collaboration?