How to use remote team collaboration

I am supporting teams that are using Slack, MS Teams or other remote collaboration applications. Some of my clients also use Viber or WhatsApp.

In our company, Mesopartner, we’ve been using Slack for a few years. I don’t want to review these different applications here. Rather, I want to share some insights on how we and some of our clients have configured channels for conversations.

I like to look at remote collaboration tools not as only a communication and coordination tool, but as an essential element of strengthening knowledge development and a learning environment.

Wherever I am supporting teams to improve their shared sensemaking and innovation cultures, I ask them to create the following channels:

#Reading and listening – here people can share what they are reading and listening to.

#Working out loud – here people can check in and explain to the rest of the team what is currently foremost on their mind. The intent is not to only inform others, but to help the person making the post to also increase their own coherence or narrative of what they are dedicating their attention to and why.

Now, with the COVID19 virus, more and more people are working from home. In our own company, we have created a channel called Coping-with-Corona where we can all share our experiences in being in different stages of self-isolation.

We have also created groups of channels. For instance, we have a group of channels where the names all start with “support” followed by the topic. So in our “support_mac” channel we help each other with tips, problems solving and advice, while in the “support_blogging” channel we encourage and assist each other with blogging.

We have groups of channels for projects, for important topics, and to coordinate our internal company functions like publications, etc.

Sometimes team leaders struggle to understand the value and function of the informal banter that often takes place in the different channels. This informal exchange is important because it makes it possible for teams to weave together explicit knowledge from the misformed or semi-thought-through statements, the half-baked ideas, the intuitions and the sarcasm that gives expression to tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is often hard to express. Furthermore, tacit knowledge is often revealed when doubts or confidence is expressed, like when somebody replies “I am just not so sure about your approach”, or “yes, you should try that, in my experience this always works”.

The real challenge with encouraging people to share their tacit insight is that we all prefer to our feelings and insight only with people whom we trust, or people whom we believe will be able to use our ideas. That is why reducing the chatter to only factual and precise formulations is not helpful. Often individuals will share their advice when they feel that others have shown in the past that the shared ideas are useful.

A final point. These remote collaboration tools are so useful because we can create channels when we need them, or we can close or archive them when they have served their purpose. Rather make more channels, and tolerate some cross-posting, than to have a few channels that are so busy that people fall behind in a day or two. Encourage your team members to reduce internal emails and to use the remote collaboration tools and you will immediately see an improved culture of sharing, deliberation and joint sense making.

Let me know how it goes!

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