There’s a reason that companies like Google and Apple build their offices to encourage chance encounters between employees and encourage “unplanned collaborations”. No, they’re not trying to spark inter-office romances (at least we think); they’re just clued in to the fact that having frequent conversations outside of formal meetings is the most important factor in a team’s ability to be successful and innovative.
According to research done at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, “The best teams spend about half of their time communicating outside of formal meetings or as ‘asides’ during team meetings, and increasing opportunities for informal communication tends to increase team performance.” This isn’t to say that formal meetings should be completely discarded – they can be good for developing broad ideas and fostering agreement on overarching objectives and goals. But more often than not, our best and most innovative ideas come after the meeting, when we’ve had time to digest the big picture and start thinking about the smaller pieces – or when we get inspiration from an interesting conversation or a random idea. And having frequent, low-pressure conversations with co-workers makes it far more likely that these ideas will see the light of day. Think about it – when are you more likely to pitch an unusual, possibly risky (but possibly groundbreaking) idea? When all the attention of the conference room is on you, or when you can casually throw it out in conversation with a few co-workers? The latter, of course…and that’s where the magic of innovation happens.
In order for that happen, you’ve got to create an environment where collaboration is intuitive and continuous, and conversations can happen organically, not just within the confines of a meeting. Companies like Google and Apple do this by having office spaces with strategically placed areas to eat, read, and brainstorm that encourage workers to leave their desks and bump into each other. But even if you don’t have the ability to redesign your office in the vein of these and other companies, you can still encourage more of this kind of communication by having group coffee breaks, or social activities where team members can chat together.
But what if you and your team don’t work in the same office? What if you work remotely and only meet face-to-face occasionally, or hardly ever? This is an issue that our own team faces all the time, as many of our members work remotely. But using Trackolade has allowed us to have the same kind of informal conversations and rich collaborations as a team working in a well-designed office space. We can send quick messages back and forth and start chats just like we would in an office – except that when these conversations lead to a great idea or piece of insight, it’s much easier to track them down later. That’s one huge advantage of using a project management system – those little bits of genius (and the big important pieces, too) are all captured in the same place, instead of floating in the ether. Who knows…maybe project management tools are the office spaces of the future.
We’d love to hear about how Trackolade helps you and your team communicate and be innovative. Sign up here to give it a try, and let us know what you think!by