There are many anecdotes about breakthroughs occurring through conversations around a water cooler, chance encounters in a hallway, and healthy banter at the office canteen. These informal moments help spark conversations and could lead to interesting ideas. At a company like Google, this is valued so highly that they design the waiting line at the canteen to be long enough to foster this sort of chance encounter!
Of course, these opportunities for synergy don’t occur in distributed teams. Leaders can try to create similar opportunities – for example, by chatting informally at the start of an online meeting or bringing teams together in person regularly. However, these manufactured interactions don’t provide the same value and can often be perceived as time-wasters.
A better solution is to build more collaboration into the team process, first during recruitment and induction, and then in ongoing activities.
This is where the right online tools – and the right features of those tools – can make or break your efforts to build synergy. In fact, according to one survey, almost 90% of leaders say collaboration software is important or even mission critical for their teams.
Here are some examples of online collaboration tools that can help your distributed teams:
- Webinars are ideal for internal presentations, such as product education, reporting, and sharing messages throughout the organisation.
- Use the recording feature to record webinars for future on-demand viewing. This way, you build up a collection of resources for training, induction, and ongoing reference.
- Use microphones to allow participants to speak out loud, rather than just typing their questions in a chat room.
- Use videoconferencing for team meeetings. Of course, you could just do teleconferencing (audio but no video), but allowing participants to see each other makes a stronger connection.
- Use collaborative mind mapping tools for exploring ideas within the team.
- Use a virtual whiteboard for facilitating discussion, capturing ideas, and brainstorming.
These are just a few of the online collaboration tools you can use in your teams.
There is one other point worth noting about teamwork: Virtual teams don’t suffer as much from the negative personality issues within in-person teams – for example, stereotyping, power battles, petty quarrels, and personality conflicts. This means that when they are allowed to collaborate effectively, they can produce better results with less friction.