In section five, we’ll explore the future of work and the vital role team collaboration plays within it to lead us to success. Let’s dive in.
The future of collaboration is where tech and people come together
If we hope to build a better world — through innovative products, organizations, and businesses — we have to work together. Team collaboration is the key, which is why understanding how we collaborate today and how we might collaborate in the future is fundamental to setting ourselves and our teams up for success.
We see the future of team collaboration unfolding from two major components. One, the hardware and software that makes collaboration easier; and two, how teams adopt more efficient ways to interact with each other — ways that make teams more productive. Finally, it’s where these two components collide that the most powerful vision of the future becomes clear.
Let’s take a closer look.
The future of collaboration hardware+software:
When we talk about collaboration tech, we must consider both hardware+software. The two together make collaboration easier and more efficient. We dove into this subject by covering existing remote collaboration technology in Part 3 of this series. As we all know, having the right tech is table stakes for remote collaboration — because if you can’t communicate at a distance, you can’t collaborate.
How do we see this playing out? Whether for fully remote, fully in-person, or hybrid teams, technology will be at the center. Improvements in hardware+software will make remote collaboration faster and reduce friction.
The future of work looks bright with tech on our side. Imagine this: You show up to work in an integrated office, like a studio, where you’re not confined to your chair and laptop/desktop. With the use of advanced tools, you have the ability to walk around the entire space, similar to being on a production set. The camera and audio follow you. It’s like you and your team members are each on your own Ted Talk stages and interact with one another in this way. You use a combination of in-person and virtual tools to deliver the best working experience. This could be the future; an entirely new way to interact with one another in hybrid environments.
While this imagined future may not be here today, we are seeing many advances in hardware+software. For example, consider the following advancements we’re seeing — many of which we are already beginning to experiment:
3-D audio – Go beyond two-channel or stereo sound to experience audio more similar to IRL. 3-D audio technology adds speakers at different heights to create another dimension of sound. Now, how you move around the virtual space impacts who and what you hear, just like walking around a room in-person, to create a more interactive and realistic experience. This tool is still in the early stages and no big player has emerged, but two current leaders of the pack are Wonder and Online Town.
OBS – Cross-platform streaming and recording software that allows facilitators to stream like a pro.
OWL camera – Interactive video conference experience for hybrid environments. The camera captures 360° video and audio to assimilate a face-to-face experience – the closest thing to IRL.
Logitech – AI-driven temperature cameras allow you to read the energy in the room — when you can’t be there in person to feel it.
Avocore or Microsoft Hub for MURAL – Take visual collaboration to the next level. Experience MURAL more interactively with the ability to walk up to a board/wall and move stuff around in MURAL rather than being confined to a desktop or laptop.
Looking to upgrade and future-proof your at-home tech setup right now? Here are a three ways you can create a productive workspace:
Audio: Your meeting attendees will be far more forgiving of bad video vs. bad audio. Invest in a good microphone so that your voice is clear and free of artifacts. Check out podcasting mics. E.g. the Yeti by Blue is popular. If your room has lots of reflective surfaces, consider getting a throw rug to absorb some of the reverb.
Lighting: Once your audio is situated, we recommend fixing your lighting before upgrading your camera. If you have natural light, start there, but make sure that the source of that light is in front of you. If it’s behind you, it will turn you into a shadow. Next, consider some accent lighting. Light your face as well as your background separately for more contrast and “pop”. Check out LED video lights – Neewer has many options.
DSLR Camera: Now that you have good lighting, you might start to notice issues with your webcam. Using an HDMI to USB converter you can capture the HDMI out of any camera and it will appear as a webcam on your computer. Our founder Douglas Ferguson uses an Elgato Camlink 4k to compute the output of his Sony A6400. When choosing a DSLR, make sure to pick one that has a “clean” HDMI that doesn’t show settings or overlays.
Improving how we collaborate through “social technology”
With your tech squared away, you can focus on doing the work together. Groups need systems to help them work together effectively. You’ll recall we’ve discussed this subject throughout this series. For example, we’ve covered how using visual methods can help guide us as we go about understanding and solving problems. We’ve also explored the benefits of facilitators and the characteristics of successful facilitation as ways to bring out the best in teams. Systems can help us work together productively time and time again.
Darden professor of Business Administration Jeanne Liedtka has studied how people work together for years. She’s focused specifically on design thinking. You’ll recall from Part 2 that design thinking is a structured approach to turning problems into solutions. Liedtka sees design thinking as a form of “social technology.” What does that mean? Professor Liedtka shared more on the concept during MURAL Imagine:
“If we go back to the actual origin and the meaning of the word technology, technologies allow us to turn knowledge into practical outcomes for design thinking. What we urgently need is a social technology that allows us to deal with the diverse kind of wicked challenges we've got today. And that social technology has to be more than software, as wonderful as MURAL software is. And it has to be more than simple rules like turn-taking. It has to be an entire approach that lets us harness whatever it takes for human beings to have better conversations that allow them to work together to produce better outcomes."
Social technology is a structured system that helps teams get the most out of their work together. You might think about it as when a sports team knows how to play together. They know how to combine the strengths of different players, run structured plays, and play better together. The result is they’re more likely to win. When working collaboratively, teams that know how to “run plays” together — getting the most out of each other’s work — are more likely to succeed:
"[By] supplying a structure to the innovation process, design thinking helps innovators collaborate and agree on what is essential to the outcome at every phase. It does this not only by overcoming workplace politics but by shaping the experiences of the innovators, and of their key stakeholders and implementers, at every step. That is social technology at work."
“Social technology” need not be limited to design thinking. And similar to hardware+software, we see emerging systems of working together that increase the productivity of teams.
One specific area where you’ll find these focused systems of working together is within workshops. Workshops are facilitated sessions that help focus a team’s energy and imagination for a specific purpose. Here are a few examples:
Mastering Virtual Liberating Structures Workshop– This workshop can change your organization by liberating the participation and playfulness within your meetings. You will learn the 12 principles of the Liberating Structures framework, which consists of 33 structures or methods that introduce tiny shifts in the protocols of how we meet, plan, decide, learn, and relate to each other. You will also learn about the design process, led by a Liberating Structures expert, to unleash and empower large diverse groups. Finally, you’ll add some serious tools to your toolkit. Through direct experience running 8 of the 33 Liberating Structures, you’ll walk away with the confidence to implement them immediately in your work.
Control the Room Summit – Deepen your knowledge on how to facilitate meetings that matter and connect with other facilitation and meeting practitioners in this 3-day summit. The event includes lightning talks, networking, and hands-on workshops from expert facilitators sharing methods & activities. Our theme for 2021 is Connection. Human connection is an integral component of the work we do as facilitators. When we connect things become possible. When we are disconnected there is dysfunction. When ideas connect they become solutions. When movements connect they become revolutions.
Virtual Facilitation Practice – This is Voltage Control’s free weekly community facilitation practice to build your skills and connect with fellow facilitators. The focus is to help facilitators hone their craft to help improve the quality of meetings. Try out a new method for the first time, explore virtual facilitation, and learn how to build a facilitation toolbelt for the virtual landscape.
At the collision of software and social technology
Now here is where the future gets most interesting: at the intersection of collaborative technology (hardware+software) and collaborative social technology. Today, more than ever before, we’re seeing new discoveries as teams adapt to both, together.
And this is where MURAL is focusing its attention. MURAL offers teams workspaces for visual collaboration — that’s the software (and the hardware can be anything from a Surface Hub to an iPad). And within MURAL there are also means to turn on social technology — through interactive templates. You’ll recall that templates have been used throughout this series — from identifying meeting pitfalls and opportunities to make them better to improving remote team collaboration and honing your own facilitation skills:
Magical Meetings Bingo – to evaluate your maturity in addressing the problems of meetings to have truly meaningful ones.
Templates offer easily repeatable exercises for teams — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you want to plan strategically, build a customer journey map, or just run a weekly stand-up meeting. They are a shortcut to bringing some of that social technology into your collaborative sessions. And because MURAL is digital, it’s easy to discover new templates for whatever your team needs to do. It’s also easy to copy and repeat what works. That means you can scale success across your organization, accelerating how your team works together.
Ultimately, what we see at the collision of hardware+software and social technology is the future of team collaboration — a future bright with possibilities.
We began this Effective Meetings Series with the goal of making meetings better for everyone. Starting with addressing the meeting problems most of us face on a daily basis, we dove into the exploration of the systems and processes needed to not only improve meetings but take meetings to the next level. We then explored the concepts visual collaboration, remote collaboration, and the emerging leadership skill of facilitation. Now that we’ve gazed into the future, we’re left wondering, “What’s left to do?” How do we continue to level up as the future unfolds?