Queen's University IRC

Designing Collaborative Workplaces

Advancing Your High Performance Teams and Creating a New Workplace Culture




Teamwork is essential to organizational success – but today, the speed of change and innovation is driving a new team structure. Leaders are now bringing together employees from across an organization to contribute to projects, and regrouping them into new teams as opportunities arise. It’s all about collaboration – not just a good practice, but a core organizational competence.

Organizations can reap the benefits of a collaborative advantage by transitioning to managing a team of teams, a work culture that evolves and shifts fluidly to meet project demands and schedules, while aligning to corporate strategy and goals. Our Designing Collaborative Workplaces program gives you the knowledge and tools you need to create that framework; building trust and enabling individuals to maximize their contribution in a high performance environment.


Please contact Queen’s IRC at 1-888-858-7838 or email IRC@QueensU.ca for more information.




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Learn how to:


Collaboration has emerged as a core organizational competency and is critical for success in today’s workplace. Our Designing Collaborative Workplaces program takes a deep dive into the why, what and how of collaboration, giving you key insights into the essential conditions for building high-performance teams, enabling collaborative workplaces, and creating engaging work spaces for collective learning.

a) Team Fundamentals for High Performance

We begin with an introduction to what makes teams high performing. Our research-based model identifies the core skills and processes teams need to effectively learn, innovate, and execute together.

You will learn:

  • Team management practices to help members organize for success and get up to speed quickly
  • Approaches and tools for innovative problem solving, including idea generation, prototype development, and solution generation
  • How to engage team members and inspire trust, while at the same time honouring diversity and managing the inevitable conflicts inherent in collaborative work

b) The Why of Collaboration: Exploring the Competitive Landscape

We will explore how the effects of globalization, technology, demographics and the knowledge economy are driving the need for collaborative work and workplaces.

You will:

  • Learn about trends and issues that are changing the way we work
  • Explore a continuum of collaborative work and workplace relationships from cooperation, to coordination, to co-creation
  • Explore the essential conditions for collaborative work, including how values, principles, and practices build trust and promote sharing
  • Identify barriers to collective learning in your organization

c) Beyond Fundamentals: Collaborative Learning and Innovating

Traditionally, team tasks have focused on product and service improvements and relied on techniques designed for planning and executing. As workplace challenges become more complex and the problem space more volatile, new approaches to working, favouring learning and innovation over execution, are required.

You will learn:

  • The art of framing your team challenge for learning and innovation
  • The mindsets, skills and behaviours collaborators require to learn together; seeking, integrating and adapting to improve
  • How experimentation and active learning as you go, is replacing traditional problem-solving methods
  • Essential techniques and tools for leveraging and building on the diverse talents, insights, and experiences of team members
  • The importance of reflection and after-action reviews for assessing results, uncovering new ideas, and continuous adjustments
  • The essential role of trust and psychological safety in promoting team learning and how you can create it

d) A New Framework for a Team of Teams

Transitioning to a collaborative workplace culture requires a thoughtful approach that includes a supportive environment for flexible teams and shifting roles. We will show you how to create a solid platform that embeds collaborative practices into your organization and creates highly engaging work spaces for your teams to excel.

You will:

  • Learn the value of shaping work as a collaborative effort instead of a solo task
  • Learn the art of forming co-evolving teams and scoping who should be involved and how
  • Create a platform of supportive practices, tools, principles and technologies to help teams quickly become productive
  • Explore the role of leadership in setting the outcomes, pace and tempo of collaborative work, as well as coaching collaborative performance
  • Expand your toolbox of techniques to foster creativity and learning amongst team members

An Interactive Approach

Learn by doing. Our experiential learning approach gives you real-world experience in a collaborative environment, allowing you to test theories and understand a new workplace from a range of perspectives. As a member of our collaborative community, you will interact with colleagues in various configurations, playing different roles in each and learn about the value of each contribution.

You will:

  • Gain first-hand experience in a collaborative setting in a range of roles
  • Explore the iterative learning process
  • Learn about technology and tools that can facilitate collaboration
  • Understand why space matters – and how to create an engaging space for your team of teams


Brenda Barker Scott

Lead Facilitator

Brenda Barker Scott

Lead Facilitator
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Brenda Barker Scott


Brenda Barker Scott is an organizational consultant and educator dedicated to designing and cultivating highly impactful, healthy, and collaborative workplaces. Over her twenty-year career in consulting, Brenda has led ambitious transformation efforts with provincial, federal and municipal governments, agencies, and private firms. When working with leadership teams, Brenda combines theoretical knowledge with practical methodologies to ensure that the right people are engaged in the right conversations to design robust and workable solutions. 
As an educator, Brenda designs and facilitates a wide range of workshops customized to the unique needs of practitioners, including change management, team building, design thinking, engaging stakeholders, business partnering, and more. Brenda has taught at the graduate level at Queen’s University and leads several OD-related programs for the Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre. 
Brenda is co-author of Building Smart Teams: A Roadmap to High Performance. Her research has been published in prestigious journals, including the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science and Research in Organizational Development and Change. Brenda holds a Ph.D. and MA in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University and a MIR from Queen’s University. Her research interests include organizational design, change, and innovation. 
As a lifelong learner, Brenda is passionate about creating workplaces that inspire, connect, and grow people.