The Making of a Virtual Collaboration Lab

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While work-from-home was non-negotiable, it was up to us to decide how our team would collaborate from home. When a sense of normalcy went out the window, new rules began to govern. Our first step was to re-evaluate our technology, tools, and ways of working.

We’ve always been an agile team, but the pandemic encouraged us to lean into this even more. We were being asked to work smarter and faster so we parted ways with the multi-step processes that we, and our clients, had become accustomed to and started to embrace less structure, sharing work early and often, and building in real-time.

This process was humbling and has led to truly break-through work and deeply collaborative partnerships with our clients. It has not only simplified and expedited the way we’re collaborating with clients but also industry thinkers and doers across the spectrum.

The Methods That Make It Possible

1. Gamification

Virtual work sessions can be long and taxing when you’re not able to move around and feed off of people’s energy like you might in person. To keep everyone engaged, we’ve introduced gaming techniques that motivate participants and get the creative juices flowing. Our sessions are hosted over Zoom, which has tools like white board, breakout rooms, and annotation.

2. Building in real time, online

To streamline the process of getting briefed, doing the work, sending files, waiting for feedback, having a call - we’ve completely hacked the process. We looked for new tools that gave us the ability to work like entrepreneurs, with speed and flexibility. Tools like Miro and G-Suite brought our work into a collaborative space that not only simplified the process but allowed everyone to participate in the building process.

3. Finding ways to connect

Keeping a human connection while remaining socially distant is so important. When team meetings mean virtually traveling into our colleagues’ homes (sometimes with impromptu appearances from kids or dogs), there’s less of a formal hierarchy and more of a sense of personal connection. We’ve been leaning into this with creatively themed ice breakers, happy hours and celebrations.

For instance, we’re working on a climate forward initiative for a corporate venture group and in a recent work session asked everyone to share how they’re being more sustainable in their own lives. Finding ways to connect minimizes the feeling of distance that sometimes impedes virtual workflow.

Approaching The Remote Future

As restrictions are lifted and in-office work becomes possible again, we still foresee virtual collaboration playing a huge role in our day-to-day. More working from home and less client travel will likely be industry-wide trends. Meeting face-to-face will become an added benefit or considered decision, not the unspoken norm.

s-o-c-i-a-l-c-u-t-1RT4txDDAbM-unsplashThat’s not to say we’re not excited to usher back the magic of in-person collaboration. Reading body language and sensing group energy are invaluable—as are pop-by inspirations when team members can physically bear witness to what their peers are working on.

And certain work—like design, packaging, and production—will always benefit from in-person iteration. There’s nothing like seeing colors and design under real-life light, and talking through and marking up projects in person (though we’re keeping an open mind and exploring ways of innovating this process to be virtual!)

Returning to a physical workspace won’t mean returning to our pre-pandemic way of working. We’re moving towards a future where work is fluid and collaboration can happen effectively in-person or remotely.

Stay tuned for more updates from us this month as we share our vision for agile working and the hybrid model of the future.

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