How to collaborate effectively in the post-pandemic world

Hello,

Well, after a short hiatus from writing articles, I’m back!

Today I want to talk about collaboration. On one hand the pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about why/when/how to collaborate. On another, we still have a long way to go.

“The largest predictor of collective intelligence is a group’s collaboration process” (1)

Research shows that it’s not where we work that matters the most, it’s how the work is done and who is doing it. And yet, as human beings, the anecdotal tells us that we like to be together physically in a room, with the ability to wave a pen and a post-it note, to read body language and to see the whites of eyes…

“In a typical six-person meeting, more than 60 per cent of the talking is done by just two people…The link between speaking time and authority is so well established that some researchers call it the “babble hypothesis” of leadership” (3)

Other studies are saying zoom is killing creativity. “A study of more than 600 people working in pairs showed that in-person meetings generated more and fresher ideas” and stating, “Virtual calls, in which people tend to focus on one another’s faces and move around less, produced fewer ideas but didn’t interfere with choosing which ones to pursue” (2).

I see, hear (and feel!) both sides of these experiences. People are certainly ‘zoomed out’ and are enjoying being back with people. But the majority of people want to maintain a form of hybrid working. So here leaves us working out how to collaborate effectively in a dispersed world…. and there’s a lot wrong.

How to collaborate effectively?

  1. Purpose: Why are you meeting? What are you trying to solve for? What does success look like? Who needs to participate to achieve success?
  2. Etiquette: Communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, and meeting protocols. Contrasting opinions are great but it takes respect and boundaries.
  3. Relationships: Establish rapport and empathy. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting for ‘small talk’, so that the team can connect, build or deepen personal relationships.
  4. Eyes: If virtual, encourage the use of cameras. Eye contact and gestures allow people to trust, speak, engage, and listen.
  5. Ears: Actively listen and wait until you’re sure the person speaking is finished before you start to speak. Watch faces to check whether anyone else looks like they’re about to speak. In larger meetings, look to use functionality such as ‘raise hand’. Control the size of meetings to assist.
  6. Self: Build in breaks and be respectful of other people’s breaks. There is a rise of ‘agile guilt’; we need to feel comfortable being away from the screen to improve boundaries and recharge.
  7. Human-centric technology: Ensure that the implementation, experience, and adoption of technology enables people to truly connect and collaborate. Ensure people understand what tech to use for what task is being completed.
  8. Variety: Meet face to face some of the time so colleagues can connect, create trust, and build company culture. Could a video call be an email, a phone call or instant message? Avoid message format fatigue. Choose the right space for the activity being undertaken. And again, respect the people around you! (Hint: It’s not ok to do a teams call in an open plan office with no headphones on).

Let’s collabor8 (Do you see what I did there?). What would you add/change?

We must take our learnings to find a work style aligned with our newly discovered priorities, desires and expectations. We have shown we can build and maintain relationships and effectively collaborate from anywhere. The genie is out of the bottle; we have an opportunity to make a wish, don’t waste it.

Have a super weekend and as always, be a good human!

SFJ

Further Reading:

1 – The Collective Intelligence of Remote Teams (mit.edu)

2 – Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation | Nature

3 – It’s OK to be quiet in meetings | Financial Times (ft.com)

4- Freshdesk’s Sexy New Office Is All About Collaboration! – Inc42 Media

5 – The Five Most Dreaded Words at the Office: ‘Let’s Start a Google Doc’ – WSJ

6 – Google’s New Bjarke Ingels– and Thomas Heatherwick–designed HQ shows the future of office spaces | Architectural Digest India

7 – MeetinVR unveils 2.0 update for virtual collaboration software | VentureBeat

8 – Microsoft Teams update will help you nail one of the most stressful tasks at work (msn.com)

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