Is True Collaboration a 2 Pizza Team Rule?

Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerburg have all had a common observation – smaller teams accomplish more. Far more, when it comes to creative or innovative work.

A recent book Midnight Lunch, by Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great-grandniece of Thomas Edison, talks about the approach that made him so successful. The subtitle of the book is “The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab”, in which she details his approach to innovation.

Small teams were a central component of Edison’s approach.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com’s founder in a 2004 interview with Fast Company recalled an offsite retreat where people were saying that groups needed to communicate more. Bezos stood up and said, “No, communication is terrible!” shocking everyone in attendance. When it came to innovation, Bezos’ experience was that small groups could innovate and test their ideas without becoming entangled in a centralized corporate approach.

The “Two Pizza Team” Rule

Bezos came up with the “Two Pizza Team” rule.  If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas the team is too large.

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Edison had a similar approach at his Menlo Park operation.  The “Midnight Lunch” was the small team coming together for a bite to eat while working together, informally in a collegial atmosphere through the evening.

Mark Zuckerburg also believed that small teams gave him a huge advantage over competitors like Yahoo!  But for Facebook it was not just the size of the teams but also the focus of the team that made the difference. Caldicott cites an example from Michael Schrage, from the MIT Sloan School.

“Zuckerberg’s software design teams focused on higher-order functions such as robustness, scalability, ease of use, and maintainability – qualities that drive leading-edge performance in the Innovation Age” compared to Yahoo’s small teams who were focused on more traditional metrics like – lines of code written per day.

Additive Vs. Multiplicative Productivity

The result of this varied focus Schrage points out is “additive” vs “multiplicative” productivity.  Two companies with 3 teams of 5 would have vastly different results.

Productivity of Additive Approach:  5 + 5 + 5 = 15

Productivity of the Multiplicative Approach:  5 x 5 x 5 = 125

That is more than 8 times more productive!  Small teams + high-order focus – a ‘deadly’ one-two punch!

The “2 Pizza Rule” and “Higher-Order Functions Objectives” will accelerate your organization’s collaboration and innovation in today’s Innovation Era.

Technology Driving Small Teams

But what technology tools can turbo charge these small teams and higher-order focus objectives even more?

Technology which:

  1. Is suited to smaller teams
  2. Supports group work dynamics on higher-order productivity objectives
  3. Accelerates creativity and innovation

In one of my recent blogs I talked about the 4 different conferencing technologies that support real time collaboration and how you increase the velocity of collaboration in your meetings (both physical & virtual) by combining the 4 conferencing technologies to provide a collaborative richness, which supports your organizations objectives.

Collaboration Through Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) are one of the 4 conferencing technologies.  And IWBs meet the three requirements listed above, which enable small teams with higher-order focus to increase the velocity of collaboration even more.  This doesn’t mean the other 3 conferencing technologies should be ignored. The more you can effectively combine them, the richer the experience.

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But IWBs are the ONLY category of conferencing technology that:

  • Is just as useful without remote participants (the other 3 are not required if there are no remote participants). Also referred to as an “In-room only Meeting”.
  • Is truly suited for brainstorming and idea flow
  • Facilitates the capture of the output of the sessions

IWBs were once more of a novelty item and had far more traction in the K-12 education sector as they are the evolution of the blackboard.  The IWB technology has had significant further development to serve the needs of businesses, but be careful of the IWB platform you invest in.

As demand goes up, new IWB solutions are popping up all the time.  Don’t be fooled by IWB solutions that are focused primarily on annotating on top of images – most solutions.  These solutions are good for emphasizing a point on a PowerPoint presentation in a WebEx type content sharing tool or making annotation on top of any image shown on the IWB display.  They will not turbo charge your small teams to greater heights of collaboration and innovation.

Invest in an IWB platform that truly facilitates collaboration and innovation.  The technology must be able to:

  1. Accelerate meeting flow
  2. Support remote connectivity to IWB sessions

Accelerating Meeting Flow Using Interactive Whiteboards

How do you tell if the IWB solution will accelerate meeting flow?  Although the hardware component of the IWB is important, the architecture of the IWB software is the most critical factor.

What does a good IWB solution do to provide good meeting flow?

  • It is easy to use
  • Facilitates seamless and smooth navigation
    • Between applications and the whiteboard
    • Within the whiteboard pages
    • Within the whiteboard canvas
  • Is object oriented so that pictures, graphic images and annotated writing can be easily manipulated as desired, e.g. move, copy, paste, etc.
  • Annotation “lives” or “persists” on the application vs on a layer “on top of” the application
  • Is integrated directly into industry standard software solutions, e.g. Word, AutoCad, etc. Annotations are saved in the application files.

Technology should be an enabler, not a point of focus in and of itself.

An IWB solution that meets these design points will quickly blend into the background and enable greater innovation and collaboration in your organization.

To learn more about interactive whiteboard technology solutions, and how they can be combined with other collaborative conferencing technologies to accelerate innovation and collaboration in your organization, contact us.

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