Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

So what makes an awesome team?

10 September, 2010

For the past 2 years I have been lucky enough to work in a most excellent team. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and as it happens Helen, Zaana and Alex have all recently had opportunities to move on to bigger and better things.

While super cool and exciting for them, it has lead me spend quite a bit of time wondering what exactly made our team such a great group to work in, and what can I do to make sure it continues? After having this stuff floating around in my head for a week or so there are the key qualities I have identified that have helped our team to work so well.

Shared big picture objectives

One of the most common barriers to effective team work that I have observed is diverging objectives within the team. When one team member believes option A is the best direction and another  believes option B is best conflict can quickly bubble to the surface. Even when an agreement on the direction is reached lingering animosty or personal agendas can remain. If they do these will gradually undermine the achievement of the objectives the team is working towards.

Fortunately in our team each of us had a very similar long term vision, which meant each time we sat down to solve a problem, we were all working in the same direction. Of course we often disagreed on the best way to approach the problem, but agreeing on the long term objective enabled us to look at each solution on its merits rather than getting bogged down debating how the problem fits in with conflicting objectives.

Complimentary skill sets and interests.

Part good fortune, part good design. We each came from different backgrounds and  had a different set of skills.  While all four of us had similar interests we  tended to favour a slightly different aspect of our work. This was great for brainstorming and problem solving as we each came at a situation from a different perspective.

This really was the ideal situation, not only did we all agree on where we were headed, but we thought about each situation differently, which meant in any given scenario, we would be able to come up with several approaches, to the situation, discuss the pros and cons and agree on the best solution or take a combination of each of our ideas.


If there is one thing I struggle to deal with it is secret squirrel types. You know the ones, they know what is going on but like to keep it under their hat, or the manager who works away with their boss on the 3 year strategy meanwhile treating their staff like the proverbial mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed nothing but bullsh… you get it). Fortunately this was not a problem in our team, twice we had a manager’s role open in the team. During the recruitment process we talked amongst ourselves about it, were open about if we wanted to apply, and kept everyone in the loop. It was great as it meant these situations did not descend into some sort of competitive mess and it ensured that if one of us did decide to apply for the role, that everyone was supportive and on side.

Mutual Respect

This has to underpin all of the above, each of the other three ingredients lead to sharing of ideas, debate and discussion but none will matter if the team members do not respect each other.

So there we go four ingredients for an excellent team. Now to the question of how do I keep these ingredients alive in whatever version of our team continues, I’m, not sure how it will pan out, but it is sure to be interesting!


Oi You Lot! Collaborate Now!!

30 October, 2009

If only community building were so simple! I’ve spent the last couple of months working on the first two of what will hopefully be many online communities for our members. This has proven to be a bit of a  challenge for a few different reasons,  the one I want to talk about now is the concept of collaboration. For me and the other guys in the team at work, collaboration is what we do. We encounter a problem and we either turn around and say “hey waddaya reckon about this” or if we’re not in the same location, we jump onto the wiki or instant messenger (or lately google wave) and throw ideas around. If no one in the team is free we jump on twitter and say “hey tweeps waddaya reckon?”. Collaborating to get stuff done is intrinsic to what we do. Sure if we are on twitter we might not be quite as specific as we would be in the office but we still talk about what is going on with the twitterverse.

The thing is not everyone does it and (amazingly) not everyone wants to do it. For many people they don’t want to collaborate, they don’t want to participate they just want to be fed the info they need. I guess most people fall into this category but I admit to being caught off guard at how disinterested some people are at jumping on the collaboration bandwagon. So what the hell do you do about it? These are my thoughts… time will tell how effective they are.

Find people who ARE collaborators!

Well duh! I know this one is stating the bleeding obvious, but I reckon the best way to help people to learn how to be collaborators is to watch it happening around them. If the group we have at the moment is not loaded up with collaborative types then we should find some to help get the ball rolling.

Start with easy opportunities for collaboration

In one of the communities, my idea was that the community would collectively write a community charter. It didn’t happen. So I re-jigged the approach and organised a few phone hookups to discuss what they thought should go into the charter. During each session we also used a webinar to record notes, which helped to fuel the discussion. These sessions gave me with heaps of insight into the needs and wants of the community. I’ll take that away and turn it in to a draft of a charter, then ask the community to provide feedback. By adopting this approach the community members are commenting on something they have already contributed to which means it isn’t as scary, as hard or as time consuming as starting with a blank page.

Change the environment

This is kinda the same as the last point, if the members are not really jumping onto the online environment to collaborate, give them a chance to chat somewhere else. It could be like that example: a phone hook up, or even better if it is possible, organise an f2f meet up. Something as simple as catching up for a coffee can be enormously beneficial to encouraging collaboration.

Ok so that’s my thoughts. They are all pretty much following the conventional wisdom. So waddaya reckon?


If I build it will they come?

30 April, 2008

Over the last couple of days Tony Karrer has posted some interesting musings on the lack of engagement in conference social networks he has encountered. This got my attention as one of my major deliverables for the year is to create a social network for an upcoming conference!

He talks about the 90 / 9 / 1% rule which states of 100 potential users:

  • 90 will lurk (read with no active participation)
  • 9 will participate in a limited fashion (maybe rate or comment periodically)
  • 1 will regularly post content

The bottom line being:

To get 10 active content contributors, you need an audience of size 1,000.

He makes the picture even more depressing by reminding us that a large proportion of those 1000 potential users are unlikely to ever even register for the social networking system!

So how do I manage to create an active community? Firstly I have numbers on my side we have over 10,000 individual delegates attending the various local versions of the conference, so by the maths described above I’m looking at around 100 creators…that’s not a bad starting point (and to be honest I’d be pretty happy if we manage that), but really we want to get that 1% a little higher.

I think (perhaps hope is a better word) we can, if we can interlink the social network with the conference program and the exhibitions in the trades hall.

So what am I proposing? 4 words:

  • Promotion
  • Education
  • Integration
  • Support

The ‘extended’ features, need to be promoted from the first item of marketing collateral to the last. A consistent message articulating a clear value proposition must be heard be everyone who registers for a session.

We need to educate our delegates on how to make use of the tools, I’m thinking captivate presentations on demand and perhaps even live webinars and demonstrations at the conference.

We’ve got tightly integrate the social network into the program. Presenters will be encouraged to post follow up discussion, resources or further reading online at the conclusion of sessions (within a couple of hours – that means we need good infrastructure on site). Several sessions should to be ‘optimised’ around feedback obtained from delegates via the social network prior to the event (and this needs to be promoted in the marketing material). We should also organize networking events to allow online social networkers to meet f2f.

Finally we must support delegates so that they feel comfortable to contribute, if we leave them to their own devices, we’re going to be disappointed. Community mentors need to be identified to welcome new members, answer questions and explain the lay of the land.

That’s my list, the big questions are, can all of these initiatives be pulled off? If they can, will they make any difference? Finally do a bunch of finance people really want to network online? They say they do but theory is very different to practice.

To tweet or not to tweet?

29 April, 2008

I have been aware of twitter for about 6 or 8 months now. I have generally felt it isn’t really for me. I mean what do I care what my friends had for breakfast? Lately though I have read the blog accounts of a couple of new ‘twitterers’ that have got me thinking maybe I should not dismiss it off hand.

Ray Sims posted account of his early twitter usage and Richard Dennison has also recently posted about his ‘conversion’. The one that really got me thinking is Jeremiah Owyang’s post about using twitter for real time feedback during a conference session (his twitter is my social computer post was pretty compelling too). I love this idea as it really allows a presenter to connect with and engage a large audience in a much richer way than before.

So my interest has been aroused, but now I am wondering a few different things:

1.    Won’t it become just another distraction? Between the various social networks, blogs and discussion forums I read / check / comment on I don’t know where the time comes from.

2.    I don’t know anyone who uses twitter, my friends and family are only just warming to Facebook and Blogging, as a result I’m not really sure where I would start in ‘network building’.

3.    Even if I did find a bunch of people to connect with, are they going to tell me anything I can’t find on blogs or social networks?

4.    If I did manage to find a bunch of people who can tell me loads of interesting things am I ever going to get any work done?

I started writing this post last night on the tram then put it aside it before posting. Funnily enough this morning I stumbled upon Mary Abraham’s account of her Twitter interest being aroused by the recent case of an American student who was arrested in Egypt and was able to alert friends to his situation via Twitter. That is another interesting story about Twitter but I think the most compelling example I have come across so far is this account of how the Anecdote team make use of Twitter. Twittering with a small team of people I know is a use that I can relate to, I’m also really keen on the idea of using it in a conference setting.

I may find a use for Twitter in my life yet…

Question 1: Facebook

5 March, 2008

FacebookMelbourne’s GPO

Question 1: What tools are available to facilitate social learning in a professional membership environment, and how can they add value?

I’ve written previously about our team’s Facebook experiments. These have been going on for about 6 weeks now; so far it has not created a storm of interest. I decided to look a little closer to see if we were just missing the mark.

My first step in writing this post was to search for Facebook in my Google reader. I turned up all sorts of articles, mostly news pieces talking about the outrage over privacy issues a few months ago. Although there were a couple that caught my eye, in “Where’s the ‘Working’ in Social Networking?” Tom Davenport said:

“So let’s agree to keep social networking social. No more prattle about business applications or corporate use of these sites. Fun is fun, work is work. “Hooking up” does not have a business meaning.”

To contrast Charlene Li strongly argues that social networks are wildernesses that should be tapped into

“So don’t write off social networking sites as merely social playgrounds for the young. Your customers, prospects, and employees are exploring and extending their relationships there.”

Ross Dawson goes as far to say that closing access to Facebook could actually reduce productivity

“Deloitte Australia, for example, actively uses Facebook inside its organization, encouraging its staff to use the application to connect and keep in touch. It’s likely that Deloitte’s business performance would decrease rather than increase if it suddenly blocked Facebook”

These and many others out there talk about social networking sites and their enterprise applications in glowing terms but I wonder if the ‘free’ sites like Facebook really are effective for enterprise use.

I was chatting with some colleagues in office about how the Facebook group was going and one of them remarked that “it really is a jack of all trades but a master of none.” I think he was on the money, Facebook is very be effective for meeting people and establishing networks. It can also be used for sharing online links and resources and can work well for facilitating discussions. The thing is it does not execute those secondary purposes brilliantly. If you have already got your network established, Facebook is a group of tools that are not quite as good as the individual versions (for example, social bookmaking, discussion forums, blogs etc). What we really need to work out is what do we want to get out of this?

There are two answers to that and it depends on which audience I am thinking about. I’ll start with our internal team, our experiments so far have been great. Facebook has provided a nice central place for our remote team to gather and share ideas and resources. It has not been an instant hit, but with time and more experimenting I believe it can find a niche in our day to day work. It will not revolutionise how we work or communicate but it will provide an extra channel that will allow us to share ideas or challenges with our current practice.

If I look external to our members and customers, Jeremiah Owyang provides some great questions we really should be asking ourselves before jumping into Facebook too deeply. I think there is a place for us in social networking sites but we need to figure out if Facebook is the place and if it is, how we are going to use it to interact with our members.

Question 1 – Web2.0 Tools

29 February, 2008

 The Yarra River from SouthBank

Question 1: What tools are available to facilitate social learning in a professional membership environment, and how can they add value?

I’ll start to answer this question by providing a list of tools I’m going to evaluate. I have used quite a few, others, (like twitter) I’m not even sure what they are.

Here is my list and some thoughts on each item:

1. Facebook
I have talked a bit about our team’s experiments with Facebook, in this post it will be time to review what the rest of the world thinks about using Facebook as a learning / knowledge management tool. I’ll also have a look at how else (and perhaps if) we and other teams out there could use it.

2. LinkedIn
If I am going to look at Facebook, I should probably look in to the ‘professional’ network too. I’m not sure what I’ll find though.

3. Blogs
I think almost everyone thinks you can use blogging effectively in an organisation. I want to look a little closer at the practicalities and politics of blogging.

4. Wikis
I love the idea of wikis and I’m pretty sure in not to long we’re going to have one and I think I’ll be setting it up. I really want to get a better idea of what is possible beyond Wikipedia style applications.

5. Twitter
I don’t know what this is. I do know that it has been described as the hot app from 2007 and it is quite likely that someone at work will hear the buzz, get all excited about it and ask me to do something with it. I’d better work out what it is.

6. Second life
I’m a bit of a skeptic on second life. Last year I heard a lot of the buzz and wanted to find out what it was all about. I signed up, logged in and couldn’t really work out much more than that. Since then I have had it in the for ‘enthusiasts’ only category. I know the cheese wants us to look into it, so this post will be my first step towards becoming convinced of it’s value.

7. Anything else I have seen but ignored or have not come across.
It’s more than likely that I’ll find other tools or platforms while doing my reading for the above. If I find something of interest I’ll post about it.

Time to get reading on Facebook!

Facebook as a Knowledge Sharing Platform

8 February, 2008

Like many work teams we have decided to see if Facebook can work as a platform for knowledge sharing. This is one of the first steps in our broader journey to create more social learning opportunities for our members. Hopefully it will provide an insight into the some of the challenges we will face when we attempt to roll these technologies out to our members. A month into our experiment I think it will.

I originally intended to write a full case study on this topic today but after giving the issue some further thought, I have decided to describe the situation and some of the challenges we are facing. I’ll leave the possible solutions for a couple of week’s time when I have got further into my reading and hopefully discussion.

I must flag before I go any further I am only a participant and observer in the project. Another team has been handling the planning and implementation, although if my interview goes well on Monday I will be involved soon :-).

The first step in establishing our platform was to create a private group and encourage everyone (approximately 15 people across 3 states) to create a profile.

The second stage was to try and drum up some interaction. A question inviting the team to suggest how we could make use of the group was posted and a couple of useful web links were posted on the group main page.

At this stage we got interest from those that were keen (myself and a couple of others), we added to the useful links, responded to the discussion and started some new discussions. The problem was not many others contributed.

The third stage was to introduce a weekly challenge. The manager responsible for the project asked everyone in the team to post one link they find very useful and describe why it is so great.

Here we started to get some action. Everyone in the team contributed at least one resource and described how it is useful to them. At this point I thought now it will happen; everyone will get involved and this will really take off. It hasn’t. A week later we’re back to the usual suspects.

That’s where we are at today. I’ll finish this post with a run down of some of the key challenges I think we are facing, then try and find solutions to those over the next 3.5 weeks.

Not mission critical

In its current state this project will not provide our team with any mission critical information. As a result they are not making the time to check the group or contribute to it.

Separate Goals

Our team consists of three separate groups, two that are focused on multimedia development, e-Learning and Social Learning and a third that is responsible for running the Library. I can post links to interesting podcasts about social networking all day but those in the library do not care, they want resources relating to them (which is reasonable… I don’t want to read about libraries! ☺).

Lack of Literacy

This is very common with these types projects, many of the team members have basic computer literacy; they have mastered Google, email and MS office but not too much more. I must admit sometimes I find it a bit difficult to figure out how to make things display in Facebook, for those that are not overly confident with the web it can be very intimidating.

Lack of Confidence

While on the topic of feeling intimidated, those that are not overly experienced are quite likely to feel very intimidated by what the experienced team members are posting. If you read my post from Wednesday would know I have been experiencing that same feeling of apprehension. It is very easy to think ‘how can I contribute something as good as that.’

Lack of value

This is probably a combination of the first two points but I think I am going to keep it separate for the moment. There is no clear value to logging in. There reason the team has at the moment is too contribute. I think we’ll need to come up with something more compelling than that.

That concludes my list of challenges, I might take the weekend to think them through and do some reading. Michelle Martin’s Blogging4Learning project may help me with a couple of these I’ll have to keep a close eye on how she is going. On Monday I’ll start discussing some of the broader issues in using social learning tools in a corporate environment.

Bamboo Project – Blogging4Learning challenge!

6 February, 2008

Ok I am officially terrified! I’ve been doing this for three months and have had a grand total 7 hits. Yesterday after posting my big question answer and deciding to take on Michelle’s challenge I had 25 in a night! I know that is nothing in the scheme of things but for me its huge and scary!

Presenting to 100 people does not bother me much at all, I know I am a good presenter and in the room I feel in control. Having a bunch of people from all over the world reading my writing is a whole different ball game, I’m heading into uncharted waters (that said I am assuming that a whole bunch of people would actually be interested in what I have to say!!). This is the reason I thought this was a good challenge to take, I have been quite comfortable blogging away with nobody reading my posts, the problem with that approach is, I have been missing the key feature of blogging that makes it such a powerful learning tool! Now the time for action as arrived; I am going to jump out of my comfort zone and interact. You don’t learn much if you don’t push yourself.

I said in my comment on The Bamboo Project that I would like to use blogging to learn about using social networking in a corporate learning context. I’m pretty sure I don’t have the time to work through 18 different types of posts in a month, but I’ll attempt as many as possible.

The main focus of the next few weeks will be on my team’s experiments with using Facebook as a knowledge sharing platform. I will discuss some other potential social networking tools we can implement in our training materials and discuss possible challenges and solutions. Finally I’ll spend some time having a look at what everyone else out there is saying at the moment.

This should definitely prove to be an interesting experience. I get the feeling that by the end of the month I will know if this blog is going to stand the test of time or not.

Tomorrow I’m going to get started with a case study of my team’s Facebook use 1 month after kicking off.

Wish me luck!

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