Taking Collaboration Virtual

Marshmellow Nightmares by Kate Ter Haar

There are great articles, studies, and presentations on how to make collaboration work for you and your teams in business. Most of it for co-located teams. But building trust is key for collaboration in all teams, especially the anywhere working team.

How is virtual collaboration building different?

One way to encourage and practice collaboration as a team is through competitive but fun events. At Motley Fool, they have Foolympics (olympics for the employees – all called fools). The great part about these activities is they are short – 5 to 10 minute events – and the prize is small. The reward is the event itself, not the prize. But most of these activities require the team be co-located.

Can you have that 10 or 15 minute bonding game virtually?

You may not be able to build a spagetti and marshmallow tower, but you can do quiz games and scavenger hunts in the virtual world. What is important is to select activities that get everyone working together to solve a problem, not have them compete against each other individually. I have seen too many activities that focus on intense individual work – such as code-a-thons – that don’t help build collaboration, but rather strengthen competition.

Making Collaboration Stick

Building bonds that don’t already exist are not spontaneous in the anywhere work world. How many times have you stood up in your cubical to see who was around for a spontaneous brainstorming session? That can’t be done in the anywhere work world. We have to create opportunities for bonding.

As an anywhere leader it is your responsibility to create opportunities for your virtual team to bond both in fun activities and in work. They need not be elaborate events. Actually, it is better not to make them too complex or elaborate.

The ideal collaborative activity is one that is done routinely, not as a once a year team building event. Make collaboration part of your weekly meeting with a 5 minute trivia game. Have a monthly video game virtual meet-up where teams are formed to take on a challenge in the virtual world (maybe even build a spagetti and marshmallow structure in second life.) Make collaboration building activities part of your work routine. Space out the activities into short events done regularly to make collaboration stick.

How do you fold collaboration into your anywhere working world? I’d love to know. Remember, we learn from each other!

until next time,

your executive coach