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R&D: How to Encourage Collaboration In Globally Dispersed Teams

R&D teams are more often than not dispersed around the world; good collaboration therefore is key

Global Business Teams Offices AltAny time a project team is spread across the globe, it’s natural that conflicts and misunderstandings arise between team members working in different time zones.

Communication over e-mail or phone calls is imperfect, the number of overlapping working hours is limited, and cultural differences can exacerbate trust issues.

To avoid these tensions, R&D managers must make all employees feel like they’re “all in it together” and unified in achieving a common goal, says one professor at Stanford University.

How One Firm Does It

However, this is easier said than done. One R&D organization in the CEB Research & Development network encourages collaboration by holding team members collectively accountable for the behaviors the team exhibits.

The R&D function instituted team behavior as a business objective, instead of using individual competencies. All employees on the team are given the same score to create collective accountability. This way, employees are more invested in collaborating well with their team members.

The score is comprised of three main criteria:

  1. Innovative problem solving: How the team identified innovative, effective solutions to deal with potential blockades.

  2. Effective communication: How team members share and consume information to make decisions.

  3. Boundary-less collaboration: How team members collaborate and support each other to improve team performance.

Develop a Global Outlook

To encourage collaboration R&D departments also need to develop and maintain a global mindset so that employees see themselves as part of an international network. Successful R&D teams use the following strategies to do so:

  • Temporary staff assignments at foreign locations.

  • Intercultural training.

  • Simple team-building activities to give employees the sense that they belong.


For more on R&D talent, see CEB’s work on the critical capabilities that make great innovators or see CEB R&D’s dedicated website.

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