Old Town Road: An Unlikely Champion of Cross-Functional Collaboration

Old Town Road, a seemingly nondescript song from a little known 20-something American artist Lil Nas X, recently took the internet by storm. While its musical merits are certainly debatable, no one can deny the cultural impact that the entire story has had. A quick recap for the uninitiated: the song, essentially a mix of Country and Trap genres, began its journey as an independent track on Soundcloud, went viral on Tik Tok, entered the Billboard and was removed from Billboard’s Hot 100 Country Music charts for not being ‘country’ enough, primarily because Country as a genre has long been dominated by White artists. Lil Nas X is Black. Country music legend Billy Ray Cyrus caught whiff of the story, got moved into action by the injustice on Billboard’s part and when on to release a remix of the song. The rest is now internet history. The song once again rose to the top of the charts and hasn’t come down yet. This collaboration between a scrappy upcoming musician and a bona fide legend was unlikely, but the results speak for themselves. This cross-genre collaboration isn’t common to just this song of course, and countless other projects are examples of the benefits that collaborative efforts can yield.

Its corporate parallel, Cross Functional Collaboration, refers to a collective of people with different functional skills working together towards a common goal. In many cases, teams working in agile companies are formed keeping in mind the complex , functionally distinct requirements of various projects. A team structured this way has the capacity to initiate significant improvements throughout the organisation, and thus is a powerful tool for overall organisational improvement. Here’s why it is so effective.

Critical lessons in Organisation Development sometimes come from the most unlikeliest of sources. In this case, a Black Cowboy drinking Snapple juice. Image Source

Leverages the Skills and Experience of a Diverse Group of People

Cross-functional collaboration allows a company to tap into the skills and knowledge of a wider group of people. This effect multiplies manifold in situations where the group consists of employees widely ranging in terms of background, experience level, creativity, analytical skills and ability to lead and create order out of chaos. This in turn creates an environment that allows for more positive results to be achieved.
For startups, more specifically, cross-functional team creation is not only slightly easier owing to generally smaller team sizes, but also indispensable. Most startups operate in extremely dynamic and often ruthless industries where standing out is a difficult task. In such situations, drawing on the experience of a usually diverse and driven employees could lead to the competitive edge the organisation needs.

Leads to a More Creative Environment that Takes Advantage of the Unique Background of Everyone

A natural subconscious bias has an effect on the way each individual perceives problems and their ways of dealing with them. This insularity can lead to a certain level of stagnation and teams may often find themselves in a rut. By creating diverse cross-functional teams, creative thinking gets an impetus and business problems can be rectified with more creative solutions. Often times, a different lens and perspective to view a problem with creates all the difference.

Leads to Stronger Leadership and Management Skills Across the Organisation

While there is a risk of projects going haywire if you don’t have a strong manager at the helm, cross-functional teams provide the opportunity to develop employees. This becomes especially important for employees operating in Individual Contributor roles as they usually do not get the opportunity to try their hand at team management and conflict resolution. Putting them in situations where they have to step up and lead, manage a diverse project or engage in effective communication to get their point across are all skills that are essential to the growth of any organisation. Additionally, this adds to their professional development in a more general sense which create more effective and satisfied employees.

Collaboration across flexible boundaries enables employees to take ownership of issues that an organisation might be facing and work together to look for solutions to those problems. Improved communication between diverse and dispersed groups of people increases the possibility of positive change, and its endurance. After all, Trap and Country are pretty diverse genres but an effective amalgamation of the two has created a song that, dare we say, is now wildly successful and a pretty interesting listen!

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