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.
Workspace design and strategy can help increase productivity, but team size can also be a factor in maximizing potential.
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.
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?
- Is suited to smaller teams
- Supports group work dynamics on higher-order productivity objectives
- 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.
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:
- Accelerate meeting flow
- 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 or our new hybrid work experiences, and how they can be combined with other collaborative conferencing technologies to accelerate innovation and collaboration in your organization, contact us.
3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Collaboration in Your Company
Boosting your collaborative capabilities does not have to be a huge investment. To be clear here, I am talking about real time or interactive collaboration which is a combination of 4 different conferencing technologies – audio, web, video and interactive whiteboards (IWB).
A budding franchise business customer (Bud) recently called me in frustration and told me, although he loved Skype, he could no longer use it in his business. Why? In a one hour conference call, he would spend half his time managing the technology in the call and every second counts. The cost of using this popular conferencing technology was a lot more than nothing. Not only did he spend half his meeting time managing the technology but he lost his focus and his credibility with the other meeting participants – his franchisees.
Bud didn’t have a lot of money to invest in an extravagant room system but he needed a better collaborative experience because he was building his franchise business up and needed to hold regular meetings and more importantly, training sessions with his franchisees who were spread out over a large geographical area. Traveling in to a central location was not a practical solution. The franchisees could not justify the time out of the field, nor the investment in travel.
He thought that he needed to upgrade to a higher end video system which could handle multiple locations all tied into a stable, single video call. Although this type of solution would certainly enrich the collaborative experience for all the participants, a room based video system for all the franchisees was out of his budget and would not deliver as rich an experience as was available at a much lower price tag.
I suggested a three pronged approach.
He needed to enrich the audio experience because audio is “table stakes” for any type of collaboration or conferencing experience. If you don’t have audio, you don’t have a conference, no matter how rich the other conferencing technologies are. I recommended a new Polycom star phone for approximately $500 which is capable of analog or IP telephony. This investment will serve him today (analog) and tomorrow, when he switches to IP.
“Now when we talk, we don’t have to time when we talk because the Polycom system handles the voices coming from both sides of conversation without cutting off pieces of the conversation. It is a much more natural audio experience.”
He was thrilled with his investment because the richness of the sound quality of his conferences went way up. And it was little things that made a big difference.
I told him that he should invest in an interactive whiteboard from SMART technologies. The SMART board provides the richest collaborative experience available. When people discover what they can do with this tool they are amazed. And a power user looks like a magician on the board when they are conducting a meeting with it.
During a meeting you can use any application that runs on a PC, annotate and capture the image of the annotations on the application as a whiteboard (or flip chart) page. Websites, PowerPoint, Excel, Visio, PDF, etc. At the end of the meeting, everyone gets an email of the PDF of the pages of the meeting notes – instantly! And the board can be cleared up and ready for the next meeting in seconds by simply hitting the reset button.
These features alone can be worth the investment. And take note, this capability can be used in any meeting – even if there are no remote participants. So how did the SMART technology go over with the franchise company? They love it! But not without going through a bit of a learning curve because he had never heard of or seen a SMART board before I recommended it. Bud took the upfront training, but it wasn’t until he actually started using it and became comfortable with it, did he really start to appreciate his new collaborative tool and the richness it added to their meetings.
Web conferencing or sharing of the desktop. There are numerous offerings out there that are available from free to a WebEx or GoToMeeting price point of about $40-$50 dollars a month. In this case I recommended the SMART Bridgit software because it provides the features required and provides the ability to share the SMART board screens with any PC, Mac, iPad or Android tablet. The Bridgit software is particularly good for interactive training sessions, where there are many participants collaborating.
So none of Bud’s franchisees had to go out and buy new technology. They could use their existing personal technology to actively participate in the meetings being held at Bud’s office. The Bridgit software provides a richer platform for many-to-many collaboration vs the one-to-many collaboration which is the strength of the GoToMeeting and WebEx software.
Bud has taken a major step forward in collaborating with his franchisees. His meetings are now focused on doing business and not managing technology. The experience is richer which allows him to more effectively work with his franchisees and grow their businesses together.
The three quick hitters:
- Upgraded audio experience with a new rich and reliable Polycom SoundStation
- A SMART board to bring the collaborative experience new and enriched capabilities.
- Bridgit conferencing software to allow Bud to share the SMART board with the PCs, iPads, Macs and Android tablets of his franchisees
Bud still wants to add video to the mix in the future and he has some great options open to him:
- For $100 he can add a USB camera to the SMART board and turn on the video if he wants to talk live to the franchisees (this is not an HD experience but does provide video if you only need it in small doses)
- He can use a number of video software products that range from free to under $50/mth per port (HD, adaptive bandwidth, no special network quality of service (QoS) required)
- He can go to a high end room system with a dedicated codec, camera and large screens for video (there are a range of options here as well)
Upgrading your collaborative experience does not have to be expensive and the returns can be huge. Putting in the right tools to support and enhance how you work together with people and increase your velocity of collaboration is paramount.