Last week, our local high school hosted 25 French high school students. We personally hosted a soft-spoken, polite 15-year-old boy named Corentin. The other 24 teens were dispersed among an array of local families. The exchange is part of a new program, run by our high school language department, designed to give French students a firsthand experience of life in America. Next year, the American kids will travel to France.
Throughout the week, the French and American students spent a great deal of time together. They attended classes, went on field trips to Philadelphia, Princeton and Amish country, played laser tag, ate burgers, cheesesteaks and Italian Ice, and wrapped up the week with pizza and a bonfire at a local student’s home. Day by day, the French kids improved their English skills and the Americans began to converse in French. They shared freely of themselves and rapidly learned about one another’s families, schools, foods, favorite activities and political points of view. Most importantly, they formed fast friendships, building bridges and creating bonds to last a lifetime.
It doesn’t take much to build a bridge: just a measure of openness and curiosity, the willingness to share ideas and an eagerness to try new things. And the benefits can be profound. Here are three great reasons to build bridges in your organization:
- Innovation accelerates. In my work with executives in organizations large and small, it’s a consistent finding: isolation breeds stagnation, connection feeds innovation. When employees talk to one another across levels, departments, regions and business units, ideas flow, creativity surges and the discovery of your next great innovation is only a matter of time.
- Results improve. When a company lacks effective and open team dialogue, fails to foster the “cross-pollination” of ideas, or lacks adequate connections to industry and customers, results invariably suffer. The best outcomes arise in the context of multi-directional communication among a diversity of stakeholders. It is under these conditions that successes can be replicated and repetitive mistakes avoided—as success in one area becomes the catalyst for a thriving organization.
- The future shines brighter. When you build connections across your organization, you uncover opportunities for growth. You discover talent. You identify successors and learn how prepare top candidates for the roles of tomorrow. And, above all, you create a culture of trust, robust debate and deep commitment—essential stuff for maximizing today’s outcomes and forging the path to a remarkable tomorrow.