How To Break Down Barriers To Communication

To Spur Innovation, Break Down Internal Barriers

By: Peter Sloane, the author of the The Leader's Guide To Lateral Thinking Skills


Some Ideas for Breaking Down Barriers To Communication

  • Publish everyone’s objectives and activities on the intranet so that people know what other people are working on.

  • Organize cross-functional teams for all sorts of projects. Make them as loose or as formal as you see fit but be sure that there is good mixing and that all of the departments contribute.

  • Arrange plenty of social and extracurricular activities, such as sports, quizzes, book clubs, hobby clubs, special interest groups etc.

  • Have innovation contests where cross-functional teams compete.

  • Have people frequently take secondary assignments in other departments.

  • Deliberately rearrange the office layout from time to time so that people move desks and sit with new groups (or adopt a “hot desk” approach).

  • Organize a cross-functional innovation incubator.

  • Encourage department managers to look for ideas, input and solutions from outside their departments. Publicly praise managers who do this.



Innovation-friendly Organization

29 Obstacles To Innovation

Organizational Models that Support Innovation

The Fun Factor

Innovation Management Policies for Large Corporations

Creative Chaos Environment

Knowledge Management

Idea Management

Intellectual Cross-pollination

Managing Innovation by Cross-functional Teams

How To Lead Creative People

Managing Innovation Through In-Company Ventures

Corporate Culture

Inspiring Culture

How To Transform Your Business Into an Innovative Culture

Innovation-adept Culture

Creating a Culture for Innovation

8-Step Process for Creating a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

5 Strategies for Creating a Culture of Questioning

Leveraging the Power of Diversity


Entrepreneurial Creativity

The Jazz of Innovation


Within larger organizations one of the biggest obstacles to innovation is poor internal communication. A silo mentality develops so that departments guard information and ideas rather than share them. People work hard – but in isolated groups. Internal politics can compound the problem with rivalry and turf wars obstructing collaboration. It can reach the ridiculous stage where the enemy is seen as another department inside rather than the competitors outside.

Every organization has to find ways to promote internal communication and collaboration and to fight internal division and competition.

The corporate leader has to tear down the internal fences, punish internal politics and reward cooperation. This sometimes calls for drastic or innovative actions.

Managerial Communication

 Case in Point  Nokia

Nokia has an informal rule that no one should eat lunch at their desk or go out for lunch. People are encouraged to eat in the subsidized cafeterias and to mix with people from outside their department. They have found that the informal meetings across departments are beneficial in sharing ideas and understanding.


It is natural for departments in organizations to become more insular. As the organization grows, good internal communication becomes more and more difficult.

There was a saying in Hewlett Packard: “If only HP knew what HP knows!” Very often the knowledge and skills needed to solve your problem exist elsewhere in the company. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are essential for innovation success. A key responsibility of the innovative leader is to constantly fight the silting up of the internal communications and to force contact and sharing between departments.