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.
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.
Why the Old Office Cubicle Just Doesn’t Cut it Anymore
Increasingly, organizations are asking ET Group about the importance of designing office space solutions that incorporates both the workspace and technology connection requirements of workers to accommodate personal and group meeting spaces in a variety of situations. More and more organizations are commenting that the old office cubicle farms just don’t cut it anymore. People need to be freed up to be able to work as easily in the cafeteria, a formal meeting space, their personal work space, or anywhere.
The ET Group and partner Mayhew & Associates, had the opportunity to demonstrate this new reality recently when we participated in Cisco’s annual customer event and showcase at the Toronto Congress Centre on May 16, 2012. The Toronto event is the largest of the Cisco Plus Canada Roadshow and attracted over 2000 technical and business decision-makers and influencers along with Cisco channel partners.
ET Group and Mayhew featured a booth in the Technology Showcase which combined purpose built, technology-enabled furniture along with video conferencing and white-boarding technology to simulate today’s office collaboration enhancing environments.
Why Cubicles Just Don’t Cut It.
- Furniture needs to be practical & functional for formal meetings as well as inviting and comfortable for impromptu gatherings.
- Space needs to be technology enabled to integrate naturally and quickly with technology solutions that connect users to their device of choice and then to connect over the internet with other workers wherever they are…seamlessly and quickly as a natural extension of the workers collaboration toolset.
- Collaboration technologies integrated into the space design and furniture need to provide an active workspace that immediately enables users to access their information, share it easily and robustly with others, whether they share the physical space or are connected virtually.
The resulting conversations of visitors at the show included concerns about the old style cube farms. People were enlightened to see that there are options out there for organizations who want to use space, furniture and technology to enhance the collaboration and productivity of the workforce.
One CEO at the show concurred with the negative impact of the “cube farm” and noted his particular challenge as a government funded organization, is that he can’t provide financial incentives to his staff, so providing an environment that is unique and the opposite of cubicle drudgery is what will attract and retain employees.
Other attendees noted that when you have the responsibility for representing many offices nationally, the need for creating collaborative environments cannot simply be addressed by adding technology or by re-configuring the office cubicle. Many companies struggle to understand the future of workspace in a holistic way.
Closing Thoughts on Cubicle Farms…
Many companies think that moving past the cube farm is expensive, time consuming and disruptive to their business but they are not seeing the big picture. Employees are not only asking for integrated design space, furniture and technology, but it is a key driver of change management strategies required to assist people in their transition to working in different, collaborative ways. Companies need to invest beyond the cube farm and provide integrated workspaces that allow all types of workers to connect and enjoy their work environments.
The world is rapidly changing and we have to adapt just as quickly. Our customers are looking for leadership in helping them think about and design the collaboration ecosystems that will take them successfully into the future. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the traditional office cubicle, will likely only be found in a museum, if you have any questions about our mission or our team feel free to contact us.