Imagine a room. A pretty large one. About 100 square meters big. You can barely hear the low humming that half a dozen of computers make. The room is warm, not hot, just a little above normal room temperature. A sudden coughing in the distance. And then the room turns silent again. Except for the low humming computer noise. You listen more carefully and pick up a low, infrequent clicking sound. You get the feeling that the person making it does not want to disturb anyone. The light flickers in the roof.
You take a quick look across the room, counting, 1, 2, 3 … 7 people sitting there. Appearing to stare into an empty space in front of them. They would have been if it were not for the monitors in front of them. It is as if there was a glass wall between the persons in the room. There is a computer in the back. The screensaver is scrolling some text.
This is more creepy to me than seeing people working in cubicles. But it is nevertheless a symptom of the same fact. There is no interaction. There is no communication. What is going on here? Are people reading each others minds?
Without effective communication, which I believe takes place with as few obstacles as possible, you can not collaborate effectively. I mean, a certain amount of respect for each others personal space and will not to be disturbed is OK. But dead silent rooms are not. It is often a sign of split up responsibilities which will eventually lead to a lower bus number.
My approach. Get more than one person working on the same task. Discuss the tasks in a group/pair first. Then split the task into appropriate sized smaller ones. The smaller tasks is then finished by one person alone or in pairs. I prefer pair programming. If you are trying pair program. Remember to rotate partners frequently. Switching at lunch feels rather natural. And when you got that going add another switch at every other coffee break.
Remember. A constant low buzz, people asking each other questions, collaborating and helping each other is how software should be developed. I think everyone should step out of their team room (if you do not have one, get one) and then back again, a few minutes later. Try making a habit out of noting how what the room feels like when you enter it. You will soon know how it feels walking into a room with collaborating people in it.