When successful people are asked to give advice for young people, their responses tend to be similar--work hard, trust your instincts, wake up early, etc. We've all seen it.

But when I came across Ray Dalio's best advice for young people (taken from his interview on Lex Fridman's podcast last December), my ears perked up. The billionaire investor and entrepreneur has one simple thought for young people: Learn to work well together.

He explained that a group's talents are more fruitful when its members know one another's strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a concept I've been harping on for years, and it doesn't just apply to young people. Really, it's one of the most critical parts of running a business.

As entrepreneurs, it's in our best interest to create an environment that helps our team work together well. Here's how I've done it at my business, and how we help our clients do the same.

The Scavenger Hunt

When Dalio spoke about working well together, he was referring to learning one another's strengths and weaknesses. But when I think about working well together, my mind immediately goes to creating systems that help teams collaborate easily and efficiently.

I find that most workplaces are riddled with inefficiencies that make work needlessly frustrating, confusing, and time-intensive. Chief among these is what I refer to as "the Scavenger Hunt." This is the annoying phenomenon where you spend inordinate amounts of time searching for the information you need to get work done.

Let's say you need to find some meeting notes from last week but you can't remember where they're stored. Were they in an email? A Slack message? Was that in a direct message or a channel? Which channel? Or maybe they're in a Google Doc ... But where is it?

All of a sudden what should have taken just a few seconds is taking five, 10, maybe even 15 minutes. Perhaps you can't find the information at all. Maybe you have to pull in someone else to look for it, and now you're wasting their time, too.

Speed of Transfer Versus Retrieval

The Scavenger Hunt is one of the most common problems teams face because it's an easy trap to fall into. When people save or send information, they instinctively use whatever method is easiest and quickest in the moment. They optimize for the speed of transfer of information, whether they realize it or not.

The irony is that I used to say that "a business can grow only as fast as knowledge can be transferred." I thought I had it all figured out, until I later realized that optimizing solely for the speed of transfer is the primary cause of the Scavenger Hunt. What I discovered was that, really, a business can grow only as fast as knowledge can be retrieved.

Need to send someone meeting notes? Copying them into a Slack message is much quicker than creating a document, sharing it with the right people, and adding it to an internal knowledge base. The former is optimized for the speed of transfer, whereas the latter is optimized for the speed of retrieval. 

Although optimizing for the speed of retrieval might take longer in the short term, it will save everyone time in the long run.

The CPR Business Efficiency Framework

I developed the CPR Business Efficiency Framework to help teams operate more efficiently by optimizing the three operational areas foundational to every organization: communication, planning, and resources (hence, CPR). Each category involves common tools, and the most important principle in the framework is aligning as a team on when to use each type of tool so that information is easily retrievable.

Here's a high-level breakdown that you can implement with your team right now.

Within communication, there's email and internal communication tools like Slack (our preferred tool) and Microsoft Teams. Email should be used for external communication (partners, customers, vendors, etc.), whereas internal communication tools should be used exclusively for communicating with your team.

Planning involves work management tools like Asana (our preferred tool), ClickUp, Monday.com, and more. These are for getting work done, so any information that is relevant to work being done now or in the future should be stored here.

Within resources, there are knowledge base tools like Coda (our preferred tool), Notion, SharePoint, and more. There are also process management tools like Process Street (our preferred tool), Pipefy, Trainual, and so on. Knowledge bases store company information, policies, assets, and SOPs. Process management tools, on the other hand, are used for documenting recurring processes.

Just by aligning on when to use these tools as a team, you can create a more efficient work environment that fosters collaboration, makes everyone's life easier, and eliminates the dreaded Scavenger Hunt.