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,’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?

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.

But IWBs are the ONLY category of conferencing technology that:

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?

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.

Do you Lack Meeting Room Space? Without Exception, Every Company or Agency I Speak with has This Problem

The Inevitable Problem of Not Having Enough Meeting Room Space

The nature of work has been changing from less individual focus-time work, to more group collaboration work.  The result: Time spent in meetings has increased significantly.

This doesn’t mean that all meetings are effective or that individual time is unimportant.  But, there is a trend towards an increasing amount of time working with others to solve problems, and to collaborate and innovate in the workplace. If you don’t have the right design for your workspace your collaborative efficiency can be hindered.

“…Research has shown that while individual work might sometimes result in a faster answer, collaboration consistently delivers deeper and richer ideas because of the broad perspectives and cross-pollination of ideas that teams can offer…” 360 Research

“A Steelcase joint research study with Corenet Global found that two-thirds of organizations collaborate between 60% to 80% of the time. There’s good reason for it — collaboration works. Research has shown that while individual work might sometimes result in a faster answer, collaboration consistently delivers deeper and richer ideas because of the broad perspectives and cross-pollination of ideas that teams can offer. But whether alone or in a group, the drive for innovation requires greater creativity.” 360 Research

The reality is building collaborative solutions means more meeting space is required.

Two Trends Working Against the Availability of Meeting Space

1. Companies Are Reducing Their Real Estate Footprint (Less Space = Less Rooms)

Often the biggest fixed cost a company has is their real estate.  Some are reducing their space to save money but most just don’t need as much real estate as they used to.

Why Not? 

More flexible work policies allow people to work away from the office such as at home, on customer premises or even on the road. Secondly, companies are redesigning their workspace to accommodate more people in less space while making the workspace much better to work in. Finally, personal computing devices are allowing workers to take their work with them anywhere they go.

I have heard clients say that they can “shoot a cannon off” on a floor and no one would get hurt.  People are just not in the office as much.  Some will even argue it is easier to get individual work done when you are out of the office.

I have a friend in the Commercial Real Estate market, who visits clients and often tells them they have too much real estate because they just aren’t utilizing the space the way they used to.

2. Organizations Do Not Effectively Use the Rooms They Have

As it can be really tough to get a room or space to meet in, you’d think it makes sense to utilize the space that you already have right? Unfortunately rooms often sit idle more than they should because the systems are not in place to manage these spaces properly.

What Happens?

People book a meeting room and then plans change but they forget to free up the meeting room. This is how meeting space is wasted.  Offices are left empty when their owner is away – another wasted opportunity for meeting space. Meetings take longer than they should for a number of reasons none of which are related to how the actual meeting is conducted. These are examples of wasted time and valuable meeting spaces.

Another example of wasting time is “finding a place to meet”.  As per Steelcase Workplace Surveys:

This is costly for organizations and has a real impact on productivity.

On the Bright Side, There Are Ways to Combat Both Trends That Work Against the Availability of Meeting Space

This table provides you with multiple solutions for solving the inevitable problem of not having enough meeting room space.

Getting More Space From Less Space How to More Effectively Use Meeting Rooms
Move from less “I” space to more “We” space – more flexible space Scheduling systems
Virtual meetings Enabling faster start time
Automate meeting wrap up
Make technology easier to use

I will discuss the details around the solutions, which offset having less real estate in our next blog.

Identifying your lack of meeting space is half the battle. The next step is about finding the right solution for your organization. Contact us to discuss the situation in your office and stay tuned for our next blog Part 2: How to Get More Space From Less Space – Factors Offsetting Less Real Estate, where I will delve deeper into the solutions in the table above which help to make meeting collaboratively easier, by making more ‘meeting space’ available.