Getting teams excited about remote collaboration

2 years ago by

Kate McGuinness speaks to Nina Fountain, Workplace Strategist and the founder of Transformed Teams about how creatives can work together, even when we’re apart.


How can creative teams foster that ‘spirit of collaboration’ remotely?

The awesome thing about creative work is the energy of creating – it is those fantastic moments when you lose track of time, doing something you love. Multiply that across a team and you get a lot of excitement about collaborating. But creative sessions, like other meetings, can be run really badly.

To collaborate effectively, creative teams need to get comfortable with adopting a few ‘bumper bars’ that will stop your meeting from derailing. Let’s face it, there’s a high degree of chance in effective collaboration – no guarantee that you’ll get that winning idea or that innovative breakthrough. So the best approach is to stack your odds, to create the setting for good ideas to flourish.

We promote the GROUP method, our own model that clarifies how to set up an effective group session: have a clear Goal, clarify Roles, Talk Openly about what you want to achieve, ensure everyone Understands at each point, and clarify your Process in the session. Another idea that we’ve been using a lot lately is Edward De Bono’s six hats, which give you a licence to take all kinds of perspectives and gain new insights into a problem.

Getting this right is particularly important when you’re working remotely – it’s hard for people to be seen, to manage group dynamics on remote collaboration software. So what is much more important than the tool you use is the way you set up the interaction to get your results.

By the way, a great tool I’m enjoying using lately is Mural – a digital workspace for collaboration, which is like a giant whiteboard. Jamboard by Google is another option. When you’re setting up your meeting, you need to ensure that at minimum, everyone has access to video – and keeps it turned on.


How might the way we work evolve over the next 20-30 years?

One of the key insights we can make about the future of work is that we should think about it in both giant leaps – exactly as you’re asking – 20 to 50 years out, and also with a short view – say to the next quarter or six months. This is the example set by leading thinkers about the future of work, business leaders like Bill Gates and Peter Diamandis and companies that have lasted the distance over long periods of time. I asked a futurist late last year what he thinks is in store for the future of work. He took me forward 50 years – to a time when the roles of governments, currencies and even countries have shifted to a more decentralised model.

Having said that, I look at the possibilities of the future through a lens of ‘potentials’ – not predictions – the only guarantee about predictions is that they’ll be wrong. The way to prepare for the future of work is to entertain a wide range of potential scenarios – that Artificial Intelligence will massively transform your industry, and that it won’t. That your skills will be in high demand, and that they won’t. Then the future becomes navigable as we look at the common threads in how we would handle each situation.

The future in decades to come will be recognisable in some ways because the seeds for it are being sown now. No doubt there will be some huge surprises along the way as exponential change continues to transform and disrupt industries faster and faster every year.


What do you think will be the lasting effect of 2020’s WFH (working from home)?

It won’t be long before many of us have access to a ‘hybrid week’ – working part of the time together in person with our colleagues and part of the time away from the office. I am aware of several large employers who are taking this moment to reorganise their leases and offices to achieve a fantastic win-win: reduced office costs and a more manageable work-life for their people.

Together we can get our best collaboration done – working from home or your own space somewhere else is where we can concentrate and churn through large volumes of work. The right balance is unique to each person and organisation. A small number want to be 100% co-located. Another small group wants to be 100% remote. Employers should understand where their workforce is at and create an approach that is flexible enough to accommodate everyone.


How is technology enabling more opportunities for working parents? Particularly women?

Absolutely it is. The COVID experience has given many more people familiarity with the tools for working remotely – and prior to COVID, 47% of people in Australia and New Zealand had no experience with working remotely. Now I would guess that figure is close to 100%.

I interviewed Kath Blackham, the CEO of voice and digital agency Versa, earlier this year during the Flexible and Agile Working Summit. She had seen that meetings via video improved the diversity of participation – giving women more of a voice at the table.

There have always been forward-thinking employers who have offered excellent flexibility. However what’s happening now is flexibility is expanding, beyond mainly flexible hours, to flexible locations, and becoming more widespread. That has to be great for working parents – as long as they still have, and create, the opportunities to forge strong, trusting relationships with their co-workers.


In your recent interview with Newshub, you mentioned that co-working spaces may be the way of the future. Can you elaborate?

Definitely. I talked about the important role of co-working spaces going forward. I do think that co-working spaces will feature more and more in the way we work. If you can solve the solvable challenges of communication and culture, there are huge business benefits from a hybrid week.

We looked at the costs for employers in Wellington and the numbers add up. It is cheaper and more beneficial for employers to hire a co-working space a few days a week than to have a dedicated office for their team. Why wouldn’t you give your team members a way of working that makes them more productive and saves you money?


Transformed Teams


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