Five years ago, Beth Peluse had just started her job as an Account Executive at a mid-sized digital marketing agency. Like any fresh face joining a new team, she was ushered from one coworker to the next for quick introductions. Two weeks later, she performed improv with a Vice President, a Director of Search and Innovation, a Project Manager, and a Designer.
No, the agency hadn’t changed its business model into a community theater. They had sent her to an interdisciplinary meeting. And by Beth’s account, it really helped her perform her job.
“Before the meeting, I was only exposed to my core team, so it was a great chance to get to know others in the company,” says Beth. “I learned a lot about their individual roles that I might not have known otherwise.”
The idea of interdisciplinary meetings has weaved its way into the fabric of U.S. companies since the 1950s when Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance decided to examine the impact computers might have on their business. By bringing together financial, investment, actuarial, sales, marketing and other departments, they created one of the first information systems departments in the U.S. - giving them a competitive advantage for years to come.
The idea caught on.
Interdisciplinary meetings have since been used to build communication between departments, which has solved countless business problems over the years. By eliminating the silo effect, companies have benefited from increased performance and more staff harmony.
After the improv meeting, Beth found that she felt more comfortable asking questions and offering her opinion to those outside of her department. Of course, the same hierarchical framework existed, but she had bonded with her coworkers outside of that structure, which established mutual trust and respect through learning from each other. This led to Beth quickly immersing herself in the team.
“After our training, we were able to build even stronger work relationships with each other. Had I not gone, establishing such a close relationship could have taken months, even years.”
Interdisciplinary meetings grow deep roots for your company. Employees get a broader sense of the company’s mission and how each member of the team contributes to accomplishing it.
Since Northwestern Mutual’s first interdisciplinary meeting, every type of business has put the practice to good use. The meetings not only build a team, but also help keep the gears of business running smoothly. Ideas can be created, vetted, improved and implemented more quickly. Changes can be made without disrupting large parts of the organization. And employee investment in the company grows.
Have any ideas or experiences with interdisciplinary meetings? We’d love to hear! Please comment below!
Disclaimer: Today, Beth works for Envisionit Media as Senior Account Executive for the Q Center account.