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.
What Type of Space Do You Need for the Workplace?
Your Connected Path to the Future
We recently completed a consulting engagement to align the UC technology and room systems technology of a large organization. Strategically, we delivered a comprehensive roadmap to align their diverse technologies and move them forward with a cohesive UC&C framework. This in turn would set them up for significant opportunities to capture long term ROI from operational, procedural and strategic sources.
And then, they had a re-organization.
New Challenges Arising From a Re-Org
All of a sudden, the new Executive in charge of IT Infrastructure had a lot on his plate and the execution of the UC&C Roadmap was just a small piece.
The client didn’t have time to:
- Absorb the material
- Review the recommendations or
- Understand the roadmap and the strategic impact it could have on his organization.
Immediate operational decisions were required that impacted the long term UC&C direction. And he didn’t have time to build a relationship of trust with the consultants that had laid out the future roadmap for the organization.
Saving Your Way Into the Future?
Like all of us who are faced with making decisions constrained by limited time and looming deadlines, he had to rely on what he knew.
He started to eliminate strategic elements of the technology for the Room System standards because he didn’t understand why they were required or how they fit in. He thought he knew what was important, because he’s been in IT for 25+ years.
With the challenges in front of him, he planned to “save” his way into the future.
Over the last dozen years, often the business method of coping with change is to cut expenses. This is especially true in large organizations where a change in direction is slow to take effect. Cutting expenses on the other hand is quick to put in place.
But this is a slippery slope that’s hard to get off once you’re on it and it certainly won’t put your organization on the path to innovation and “Blue Oceans”.
Macro Market Trends
There are two current macro trends that I feel historians will look back at and use to define our time in history.
- The pace of change has gone exponential. We are at an inflection point in the rate of change and the impact is profound. You have to innovate to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of the inevitable – change. Gary Hamel has done some compelling work showing why we can’t do things the way we used to.
- The end of the Industrial Age and the beginning of the Connection Economy. Seth Godin writes about this. This shift is having a profound impact on businesses as things change.
ET Group helps organizations become more connected so they can better collaborate and innovate.
To do this effectively requires an understanding of how different disciplines or business offerings interact and come together as the nature of how we work changes.
The Workplace Of The Future
Meeting rooms are where workspace and technology really come together. Room systems must be effective places to meet where both the physical and virtual world intersect seamlessly. They must contain the right mix of conferencing technologies to enable the required level of collaboration and this will naturally lead to innovation.
The figure on the right shows the different disciplines that have always been separate, yet related and are now critically connected.
As the world changes, how is your business space requirements changing? After people costs, space costs are often the second most significant operational cost requirements of a business.
- How much space do you need?
- How will your space change?
- How can technology enable operational savings, productivity and strategic innovation?
Note: The importance of organizational culture and the need to focus on users and adoption for any significant change you introduce to your organization is not being discounted. This is a fundamental requirement.
Rethink Your Collaboration Workspace
We created this Infographic that highlights some interesting stats about the changing nature of work and how companies are adapting by:
- Adding more “We Space”
- Moving to smaller more efficient spaces
- Supporting alternative work strategies
To do this effectively and enable people to remotely collaborate, your room systems technology must align with your workers personal technology or a UC&C strategy. Note that 72% of people STILL come into the office to collaborate.
This is true whether your organization has 3 or 3,000 meeting rooms.
Meeting rooms are a scarce resource. Meeting rooms are an important part of your organization’s collaborative capabilities.