18 October 2016
4 min read
There are a lot of buzzwords floating around at the moment. Mobility. BYOD. Flexible working. Remote working. Millennials (obviously). If we take one thing from them, it’s that the way we’re used to working is changing. Yet despite the push toward separation and remoteness, it’s clear that collaboration is still as important as ever.
When people come together great things can happen. The collective brainpower and creativity of scientists, engineers, doctors, artists, writers and millions of other professions have all come together at one time or another to solve humanity’s biggest problems.
Big business understands this and there have been a number of initiatives to bring people together in elite taskforces to solve problems. We’re not talking Suicide Squad or the X-Men fighting corruption in the world, just the slightly less dramatic challenges of bringing technical expertise and engineering to the world.
Project Spark was a prime example until Microsoft and Team Dakota discontinued their support. It was a community where fans of video games could come together to help make their ideas come to life. Touted as the place “Where players create and creators play” it gave people the tools they needed to create games and release them to the community, where other people could install them and play. Fully 3D rendered games with plots and dialogues as intricate as the skill of the creators were worked on together and edited with feedback. Teams were able to work together remotely to collaborate on the game and respond to feedback from all over the world.
One technology trend is to release information to the world. Instead of guarding research and code behind the closed doors of the office, companies are opening the barriers and letting amateurs and competitors alike take a look at their tools. This form of open innovation is what helps app stores fill with great new apps and solves huge problems. It’s quite common in scientific and medical fields to set problems to the wider community and wait for the combined brainpower to get results. A healthy reward can also stimulate people to get involved, as evidenced by Apple’s bounty program for discovering and reporting bugs.
But what does this have to do with the modern workplace? It shows that creativity and productivity can still happen regardless of the distance between people. With the constraints of remote working it’s obvious that having the right technology at your disposal can make or break the success of a project. So whether you’re sitting with your team in a meeting room, or communicating with them from your home office in another country, the way in which you communicate is key.
While many people have made the jump to remote working, it’s important to remember that the majority of us are still working in an office every day. A major part of a typical day involves communicating with colleagues and clients both in the office and offsite, so ensuring you have the best tech available is essential.
You’ve got the tech but how do you make the most of it?
Providing employees with the right tech can make or break a project. This doesn’t just mean physical devices like laptops, phones, chargers and various USB sticks and headsets. It also means creating conference room facilities available for employees to use on site, as well as setting everyone up on Skype for Business and Dropbox, and sharing contact details beforehand.
Collaboration between remote teams can potentially be tricky to work out, so having everything set up and ready to go will help things go a lot more smoothly.
Brainstorming and ideation are two of the issues a lot of managers and business owners worry will suffer when teams aren’t physically in the room. So let’s run through how to host the perfect remote brainstorm.
Make sure the whole team is invited
It sounds obvious but make sure that people have been invited and have actually seen the invite. It’s easy to lose track of meetings in a day, especially without colleagues around to shout your name from the meeting room when you’re late.
Send out the agenda and briefs before the meeting
Creative people can perform well under pressure but with a bit of extra time to let ideas develop and grow, you’ll save a lot of time rather than going in cold. Plus, it means questions about the brief and objectives can be discussed immediately, instead of slowing down the creative process later.
Give everyone a chance to speak
Extroverts dominate social situations. It’s a fact and one that can’t be as easily dealt with when your extrovert is loudly talking down a microphone from the other side of the world. Establish a time for talking and a time for feedback (though when ideas are flowing it can be hard to keep people focus) – it’s important to give your introvert team members a chance to shine as well.
It’s great to have access to share images or text on the go, which is where a collaborative virtual workspace can be invaluable. Google Docs can give multiple people a chance to edit the same document at once. A Web Whiteboard is a touch-friendly online whiteboard app that lets you connect, collaborate and create with others all over the world – perfect for scribbles and sketches to illustrate ideas on the go.
After the brainstorming meeting just make sure that you write up notes and send out a full contact report to all teams.
With the right technology, anything is possible.