Forbes has stated in their research that “Overall, selfish individuals might defeat altruistic individuals, but groups of collaborators are victorious over groups of selfish people”.
This even extends to human-machine collaboration as Gary Kasparov stated in his book Deep Thinking where humans and machines working in tandem beat machines at their own game. After all, collaboration has been key to our success as a species.
With COVID-19, stories about working collaboratively has become the norm. Enabled and enhanced by technology.
These stories have promoted transformations in our ways of working: from waterfall to agile, or adding design thinking to workflows, but the question still remains; are these simply contingency measures that we hastily set up by googling “what to do?” have we fundamentally transformed our organizations in a profound way after a year with COVID?
From our perspective throughout this year long journey, we find evidence that people have been able to foster change at the core of organizations and adapt. Decentralizing leadership and relying on the strengths of each individual’s skill set.
What we’ve found in common in organizations that have been transformed throughout the year is:
People, augmented with technology:
The critical ingredient for collaboration.
For any challenge, we need holistic approaches to develop feasible, desirable and viable solutions. People, diverse in perspectives and expertise, empowered through collaboration and technology, are the key to designing solutions that solve our challenges.
Human-centric design collaboration ensures that all user voices are included, from internal clients to end users. Giving voice to the voiceless and taming the vociferousness of “loud” individuals, even in virtual environments.
This approach helps organizations to better articulate who and what to solve for and allows empathy and consensus to inform the solution.
Physiologically safe and inclusive culture:
One that allows individuals to thrive and embraces change.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”
– Brené Brown
Vulnerability in the context of collaborative work is not a weakness – it’s a fundamental ingredient for teams to be bold, move projects forward and allow for flexibility to pivot when necessary.
This is especially important in these times where psychological burn-out is at an all-time high. Team flexibility and support is key in making sure that in environments where normal office hours don’t apply, we can confidently raise our hands and get help from our teammates when work is getting out of hand.
The more that individuals in organizations compete “racing to the top”, the chances for collaboration to flourish diminish as time is foolishly wasted on devising complex plans to ‘win’ instead of reaching a common goal, with the aforementioned burn-out as a direct consequence.
Transforming an organization’s culture requires training individuals with flexible mindsets and empathy. That’s why the double diamond design process model diverges and converges, twice!
Team building during work hours -remotely or in person as we’ve learned- is a guiding principle to ease cultural change. Start with static activities such as safe spaces but slowly progress to more fluid work models that encourage bonding, communication and trust building. By designing a roadmap for this cultural transformation, you will create more resilient teams, able to adapt to whatever challenges lie ahead.
Ways of working beyond what we know
Collaborative, but always moving forward.
Adopting any team framework including agile, enables constant team communication and understanding that encourages collaboration. Just be mindful that they are just frameworks! Don’t get us wrong, frameworks are useful, but not the end-goal in themselves. Adapt the framework to your team’s particular traits and make it your own. That way they will become catalysts for any outcome you are looking for.
Oh! And no matter the framework, always remember that before signing off decisions, test them. Again, and again.
As for the how, conduct collaborative activities, from stand-ups to workshops to keep things moving. Make sure to ask yourself:
1. Are all voices being represented?
2. Am I giving enough space to create, whilst making the right decisions?
3. Have I timeboxed my activities to move the ball forward?
4. Do we have the right meeting places and tools that enable collaboration?
Collaboration has not happened overnight, but simple and creative ideas can become deeply impactful in many organizations. Take affiliation events, no one before COVID thought of virtual gatherings with drinks to bond with their respective teams, even across geographies.
COVID-19 has put collaborative ways of working in the limelight on an unprecedented scale. We strongly believe in the importance of transforming organizations’ core to be highly collaborative in nature beyond Zoom meetings and document sharing.
Proof of this is how we have adapted to our new normal; designing unexpected and delightful solutions from anywhere at a fast pace whilst generating truly transformative impact to clients.
The current contingency forced us to adapt, bringing the best inside of us to the forefront. This strikes a chord with our collaborative nature. Individuals can do amazing things, but we as a collective with technology on our side, can do even better.
Note: In the spirit of collaboration, this article was co-written whilst in quarantine, with remote tools by Alejandra González and Nicolas Rencoret