Is Online Collaboration Any Good?

These certainly are uncertain times. We are all rapidly having to adapt to new lifestyles and work structures at an exponential rate, as buildings close and we receive instructions to social distance and stay home. With these sudden and disorienting changes come unprecedented challenges and, as a small business, we have been facing them head-on. This has been most prevalent when considering our live events, as we have had four long-planned Domestic Mission events derailed, for example, and we are currently considering alternative routes via which to connect the council suits with the local sneakers. 

As our new routines are normalised, how does this bode for the future of small businesses? We are, of course, heavily aware of the short-term as we are all mid-adaptation, but what of the long-term? We believe that this situation could be pivotal in creating a watershed moment, whereby online collaboration rapidly accelerates and pushes for a cultural shift in terms of our daily work structures. As more people work from home (those with jobs that allow them to do so), the online world of Zoomers, Slackers, and Skypers becomes the new normal. As a result, what it means to be a modern worker is changing day to day. For example, this might herald the entrance of the four-day working week as efficiency increases and both the mental and physical health of the individual is valued more. Those who are not able to leave their homes due to health concerns or being primary carers, for example, may find an empowering switch taking place as the exclusivity of the working world opens up and the range of options available to those working from home increases. Digital brokerage will also be given a boost (see our NESTA report), and the environment has a moment to breathe and repair as the need for commuting, amongst other things, is drastically reduced. And what of our online Collaboration Styles? Take our test here to find out your Style and reflect on how online working challenges or changes that. 

Twice Daily 100%Open Team Standup 

Naturally, when sprucing up the way we work, whether it is from a place of necessity (as it is currently) or part of a deliberate plan, there are always teething issues. When it comes to online meetings and workshops, it is vital to remember that we communicate with body language 100% of the time, regardless how much of it is seen. We take this for granted but as it is such an essential part of how we interact with one another it requires careful facilitation online, especially as something missed or misinterpreted could easily mean roadblocks and miscommunication. Workshop techniques also become more challenging to use, such as post-it note brainstorms and breakouts, and the workshops themselves often simply develop into quite dull webinars, where spontaneity is replaced with PowerPoint.

Here at 100%Open, we have the first-hand experience of transitioning workshops to the online sphere, and this is where our Online Jams come in. These real-time collaborative workshops are fully facilitated and can support up to 100 participants, offering participation via webcams, chat boxes and interactive online exercises. Each Jam is based on the 100%Open Innovation Toolkit so that it follows a strategic structure. We co-design the workshop, and then manage, facilitate, record, and report the Jam. We manage to keep a hold on what makes in-real-life workshops so successful by using tried and tested Jam techniques to recreate the dynamics typically only found in face-to-face workshops, all while minimising resources and carbon emissions.

This paradigm shift in how people collaborate has always been inevitable when considering the leaps and bounds made in technology, but in the current climate it is up to agencies like 100%Open (and bless Zoom for keeping it together!) to ensure that the quality, inventiveness and sheer business empathy of working together is preserved, if not actually enhanced.


Magdalen Simoes-Brown

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