At work, you tend to develop routines that fit your schedule and get you from one task to another. You have the same weekly meetings, and you work with the same group of people within your company.
Working with your team makes sense—you’re used to those individuals, you feel comfortable asking them questions, and you know what to expect from them. However, that doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll get the best answers, and frankly, your routine could be holding you back.
Whether you’re struggling to complete a project, feeling unproductive, or stuck in a creative rut, here are three ways working with new people can amp up your workflow.
1. You’ll Start to See Your Entire Company as One Team
Interacting with people you don’t typically work with offers you the chance to observe how different departments operate and how they approach their workday. The first step is simple: Change up your seating arrangement. (Or, if you can’t permanently change your location, try working in an area of the office you normally don’t work in.)
At PicMonkey’s new office, for example, we deliberately seated every single person next to someone outside of his or her functional area. In other words, I recommend mixing HR, IT, product, and marketing teams, as opposed to clumping your office space by department. It facilitates a type of osmosis, and you can’t help but gain valuable insights into the pacing, rhythm, and type of work your colleagues tackle every day.
As a result, the whole team starts to sync and feels like one integrated whole. To use a sports metaphor, you and your co-workers start functioning like a basketball team instead of two tennis players—eliminating the back and forth and allowing you to work together toward a common goal.
If you have to stay at your assigned desk, find time to hang out by the water cooler or hold a brainstorming session in a common area with people from other departments. Even if it’s just for a quick meeting, moving around the office throughout the day can place you in a different mindset than you’d have just sitting at your desk for hours on end.
2. You’ll Be More Collaborative
Sometimes stepping outside of the box means stepping outside of the office—literally. Working with other companies can show you new techniques for approaching a specific project (as well as your daily tasks). Seeing how other companies complete similar work can be somewhat daunting, especially when you’re used to the routine and culture of your own office. But staying in your comfort zone harms productivity as it forces you to recycle ideas.
One of my favorite aspects of being chairman at GeekWire is that I get to create opportunities for companies to collaborate with each other and network. I routinely ask PicMonkey team members to attend GeekWire events so they can interact with colleagues at other startups in our ecosystem, like Redfin, zulily, and TUNE.
Several of the tools we use for projects, formatting, tracking, and business strategy have resulted from these occasional interactions with other companies. We’ve found that networking events can foster collaboration both company- and industry-wide, and they make way for potential partnerships in the future.
3. You’ll See the Big Picture
Once you’ve worked with other teams and talked to people at similar companies, you’ll learn how other departments operate, as well as how different companies work to accomplish similar goals. It will give you a better sense of how your company runs overall and where the industry’s going, which will make you a more valuable member of the workforce. Knowing how IT works differently than finance or the goals for HR versus the research team can also realign your interests and shift your direction to a new area of focus. This holistic perspective will help you incorporate multiple facets of the company into your own objectives.
Taking it one step further, working with external teams can shed light on areas for improvement. In one instance, albeit on the extreme side, Moz’s CEO Rand Fishkin and Seer Interactive’s CEO Wil Reynolds swapped roles as CEOs at their respective companies for a week in an effort to learn new business processes, strategies, and insight. They inherited each other’s calendars, had access to each other’s emails, and attended company meetings. Each CEO came away with incredibly valuable lessons, arming their original teams with a rebooted perspective.
Of course, not everyone can join another company for a week. But there are alternatives whereby you can learn from others’ work style and culture. For example, request to sit on another team’s meeting: It’s a great way to pick up on key insights that you can put to use and share with your team.
By deviating from your normal routine and stepping outside of your comfort zone, you can boost your productivity and become a more valuable member of your workforce. Talk to people you know the least to get answers you’d never expect. And remember, when it comes to your career and everyday work style, it’s healthy to mix things up!