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.
5 Myths of Telepresence and What They Mean to Your Business
If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you have more than a passing interest in collaboration, video conferencing or telepresence. Confused? You’re not the only one. You can’t use search terms like collaboration, or telepresence without coming up against different definitions, methodologies or applications. You walk away from a search like that inevitably asking: “What’s the right definition?”
That is the problem with terms like collaboration and telepresence. They are broad and sweeping and you will be hard pressed to find many people who have the same definition. But that isn’t a bad thing. Creating authentic communication and collaboration isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” industry.
5 Myths of Telepresence
Recently, Cisco published an article on their blog debunking five myths around telepresence. These myths are things that we, at ET Group, have come across time and time again when talking to clients. The Myths Cisco talks about are:
Myth #1. “It’s unaffordable and only for the enterprise”
Myth #2. “Web-based consumer services are good enough”
Myth #3. “Software vs. hardware”
Myth #4. “Telepresence is too complex to set up and use”
Myth #5. “The payback is limited to travel”
Debunking The Myths
Debunking the myths is important for three reasons:
- It gives existing telepresence users a way to gauge their investment.
- By putting the myths under the microscope readers can take stock of any preconceptions they might have.
- It helps people to make good decisions when developing a technology roadmap for the next five years.
Myth #1. “It’s Unaffordable and Only for the Enterprise”
I’m going to leave the telepresence ROI discussion to my peers. I’m going to focus on Myths 2-4 because they’re centered more on the technology involved behind the scenes and the user experience.
Myth #2. “Web-Based Consumer Services Are Good Enough”
In previous blog articles We’ve discussed the pros and cons of consumer grade services for your business Video Conference needs. Recently, Microsoft began folding its MSN messenger application and pushing those users towards their Skype platform. The only announcement which improves Skype’s business readiness as a result of this move is an improved mobile application. Mobility without security isn’t going to offer businesses a new experience with Skype. In fact, it would be my guess that the fanfare of the new Skype user base may impact performance with the sheer number of subscribers. Why do I say this? Skype and MSN have had high profile outages in the past due to congestion. It’s worth thinking about what would happen with their combined user bases.
Myth #3. “Software Vs. Hardware”
This question is at the heart of every video conferencing roadmap, and it feeds into three key questions:
- How do you want to collaborate? For an example read 3 Real-Life Solutions to Ensure Video Conferencing Adoption.
- Where do you want your teams to work? See a previous blog Do you Lack Meeting Room Space? Without Exception, Every Company or Agency I Speak with has This Problem.
- What can I leverage today, for tomorrow? Further discussed in the blog Conference Room Audio Visual Solutions are an Integral Part of a Well Executed UC&C Platform.
People often ask, how do I ‘future proof’ my investment? Do I go with a desktop client like Jabber, Lync, or Vidyo; or invest in an integrated boardroom solution? After we start discussing the three questions above, we often find that clients want to do both.
The reasons clients may wish to do both vary, but it boils down to one thing: In many telepresence deployments there is tremendous investment overlap in the requirements for mobile versus office deployments. Understanding this allows clients to prevent the conversation from starting as a “this or that” discussion and making it about workflows and where collaborative technologies can enhance productivity.
Myth #4. “Telepresence is too Complex to Set Up and Use”
I think that it is important to recognize the difference between complex, and flexible. Yes, there are many different ways that you can deploy telepresence. But, that’s true of your Phone System or PBX, and it’s just as true of your computing environment whether its Windows, Mac or Linux based. Options don’t inherently mean complexity, and anyone that tells you differently is avoiding the question.
Options mean that you have to take a very sober look at where your company’s deployment is starting from, and where you want to develop your collaborative ecosystem too in the next five years. But building the ecosystem is only half of the battle.
The other half of this myth is using telepresence; the user adoption of the technology. User adoption is a microcosm of how companies adopt new technologies. Most, will have a few highly evangelical adopters who will win over the office over a period of time. A few will adopt a technology and have it sit unused while they try to figure out what its business application will be. Rarely will everyone see the need to make a change and jump in with both feet. At its heart, user adoption is a battle of perception. Developing adoption comes down to three things, dispelling fears and doubts, kicking the tires, and users finding what’s in it for them.
What Will Telepresence Mean for Your Business?
A lot of what I’ve talked about, and Cisco’s blog post can be summed up into one question: What will Telepresence mean for your business?
If anything, this blog has shown you that there isn’t one-way to answer this question to satisfy everyone. The next time you go to search for collaboration or telepresence, instead of asking “What’s the right definition?”, ask yourself “How will my business define it?”
Cisco has done an excellent job of trying to dispel fears and doubts. If you’re still stuck on the definition we at ET Group can help you with the rest.