Collaboration Techniques that really work – Lisa Reichelt @ Web 2.0 Expo Europe

Some notes on the first session at the Tuesday workshop session at Web 2.0 Expo Europe: “Collaboration Techniques that really work” with Leisa Reichelt. I really enjoyed the workshop, it was both easy going and immensely interesting. I went there to learn about new working patterns and methods, and learn about how to adopt these to my consulting practice.

We started off with all participants presenting themselves, at a minimum three tags were said. I got the impression of a pretty mixed crowd, i.e. there were developers, journalists, designer, start-uppers, business developers – and even one or two big Co guys too – mainly with an european background.

OK, here we go:

  • Collaboration = working together, especially with the enemy ;)
  • Collaboration ain’t inviting a bunch of people to a meeting at the beginning of a project
  • Collaboration ain’t working separately on the same project, yes, it’s all about the „actually working together“, not just contributing bits to a pot

Well, we all agreed that good collaboration is rare, it’s percveived as somehow fluffy, even when the benefits are so obvious. Some reasons:

  • good for team building & morale
  • good for communication
  • support and build up cross disciplinary skills and insight
  • more heads, eyes, perspectives enrich our work
  • we build up team & shareholder buy in
  • it’s fun too, yes, fully acknowledge this – people are social animals, we like it to be together with people we like, and with people that have energy and commitment (for the project)

If we do it right we can

  • turn stakeholders or customers into collaborative partners
  • build collaboration into project methodology – i.e. collaborate regularly with your project team
  • collaborate with your peers & invite other expert perspectives – Leisa offered us this good idea of inviting “wildcard collaborators” from the outside, they help us to think tangentially and integrate new perspectives

Ok, then, when to collaborate?

  • at the beginning of a project, but not JUST at the beginning
  • when you’re stuck, i.e. for trouble shooting and problem solving (this is collaborating with a narrow focus)
  • when you’re looking for inspiration (yes, wide focus)
  • regularly, well, it must be trained …

What kind of tools make sense?

  • people (the right ones!), i.e. people that like to collaborate
  • sticky notes & pens, whiteboards/ flip charts
  • fun stuff as stimuli
  • sugar in the afternoon (sic!, give them sweets to keep them alert and productive)
  • an objective (well, I know this is not exactly a tool, but close enough in Leisa’s line of arguing, agreed)

Later on we ventured into techniques that make brainstorming work, i.e. right people, preparation, „the rules“, the tools and the environment. Some noteworthy points are the Importance of a good facilitator and the aligning along useful rules, like e.g.

  • what is the problem / question?
  • we need to appoint a facilitator & a scribe
  • listen more than you talk (this can be really hard, it’s easy to dominate the group when you’re outspoken and have a deep interest in the ideas)
  • listen for your own ideas, but also add value to other peoples ideas
  • suspend judgement

One very important rule is “NO QUESTIONS”, good one but nothing new here. I actually liked the second “lifehack”, i.e. demand that any of the contributed  ideas must start with the words: „I wish …“ or „how to …“ as this is helping in going from an idea to a story. Giving you a roundup of our group experience, dealing with ideas for a pizza restaurant is rather hard, so it pass on this one.

Well, second part of the workshop dealt with the KJ method for consensus, i.e.

1. determine the focus question
2. get „opinions“ / „ideas“ onto sticky notes
3. affinity sort into groups (likeness, clustering)
4. name groups
5. vote on group importance (three votes)
6. rank groups (two by two)

Some hints: a) if nobody votes for a group throw it away, you can get there later if you want b) rank them via counts of votes, then put the winner group besides the second group and discuss which is better (well, you basically apply some kind of bubble sort to this, finally you reach a list sorted by perceived importance) and c) in the voting stage it’s basically about discussing these things out, even when in the end it can be necessary to resolve deadlocks by voting again.

In the discussion we shortly talked about whether we can do this online. Well, yes, sort of an issue. But I agree that it’s hard to do this with offshore teams (I guess that is not so much about distance, than about cultural differences), so while technically speaking you can do it, it’s never going to be like the F2F-situation. Moreover, the hassle involved in getting the people together is so much worth it (side benefits like connectedness, understanding, team building, …) and basically making it a lot easier later on to do more on technical platforms and with online tools.

By the way, the room was packed with people I know and dig, let me see: Peter Bihr, Stefan Nitzsche, Jodi Church-Wagner, Christian Heller, Johannes, Hans Dorsch, Jan Tißler, Igor Schwarzmann and Henning Grote. Johannes did some live-blogging, as well as Jodi, but I guess that there will be more write-ups soon. Moreover there’s the Twitter Backchannel with the tag w2eb_ux and w2eb respectively, check out e.g. Twemes. And Leisa said that she’s going to put her slides up on Slideshare, probably in a Web 2.0 Expo group  …

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

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Looking back at Berlin Web2Expo and BarCamp

After getting back from the BarCamp Berlin and Berlin Web 2.0 Expo I went straight into tight project pressures and couldn’t afford to blog. But now it’s time for a summary and a conclusion to the past five days. But first let me express my thanks to Oliver, Andreas and the whole orga team for making the BarCamp Berlin a success – and also thank you to all the sponsors for their support (it showed).

I took the opportunity to blog directly from both (un-)/conferences, see e.g.:
Killing the Org Chart and Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check
Dion Hinchcliffe on Rewriting the rules of the web
Be like the Internet
Barcamp Berlin Tag 1 … Yahoo! Pipes session

Now, I didn’t manage to put down that many posts from the Web 2.0 Expo, as some of the sessions turned out to be something else than advertised, and I swiftly dropped out. And while discussions were more interesting at the BarCamp (and less formalized as well), I really enjoyed the discussions after the Expo sessions and keynotes, mostly because afterwards I’ve met and talked with so many interesting people from all of Europe and the U.S. (like at the parties at the Oberholz and the 40seconds, enjoyed that).

Unluckily Crowdvine, the social networking platform O’Reilly and CMP organized for Web 2.0 Expo arrived a little late. I would have loved such a social network three or four weeks in advance, to connect with other attendees, to organize the day and the meetings, and to explore the social network. Still, it was a good idea and still helps to facilitate the communication even after the conference has ended. Yes, that’s the gist of it all: what really counts are people, and the connections between them.

Now on the weekend I will try to explore some writeups, and I will try to get back to some of the people I’ve met …

So Berlin didn’t “suck” for me, even when I will keep this in mind for the next time. After all, nothing’s perfect the first time, like here – yes, Tim O’Reilly got asked for his ticket to the 40seconds-party. LOL!

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Killing the Org Chart and Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check @ Web 2.0 Expo

Some notes (with added thoughts and remarks from me) on Sören Stamers and Nicole Duffts session at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin, Sören starts:

Self-organization moves the world (emergence, natural enterprise, complex systems theory, …)

But hierarchy controls the enterprise – why?

Hierarchies are vastly successful (military, church, mafia, …), but
- they kill creativity (which thrives on the edge, see Stowe Boyd)
- they kill agility
and
- they kill motivation (people don’t like to be told what to do, at least the people we want to have in our organizations)

So what’s the situation?
1. Rising complexity
2. Accelerating dynamics (and yes, not only in this web 2.0 world, think of accelerating product lifecycles)
3. Stronger Values (networks tend to create a sense of value, they evolve into higher levels of understanding, again here’s the emergence of patterns)

Three years ago CoreMedia was sensing the need for new approaches, to let go, to get the best of their (capable) people. Here’s how they approached this, they let go the old understanding of departments and rigid organizational structure:

- Get rid of departments, work in projects (so it gets easier to include external people into the work processes

- Transparency doesn’t hurt (open board/management meetings, this creates trust)

- Using Open Space meetings as an organizational method

- Collective awareness beats processes (big changes get easy when you have a global, shared understanding)

- Tools, yes, tools are important (they change the behaviour of people, again see Stowe Boyd) and yes, those web 2.0 tools are a really good afterburner. Sören cites Twitter as an example, but also showed us screenshots of the internal CoreMedia blogging platform), CoreMedia seems to be an interesting company to work for or to do projects with …

Next up is Nicole Dufft of Berlecon Research (Berlin, Germany) speaking about Reality Check: Enterprise 2.0 in Germany

- recently had a study among CEOs et al.
- focussed on knowledge-intensive industries

Some findings:

- a quarter of decision makers in KM-intensive industries do not know what Web 2.0 is
- of those who know, only a smart part know what to do about it
- 90% sees there’s a change going on, that requirements have increased (they sense that things are shifting
- less than half see they are good supported by their ITC team (surprise …)

All in all, web 2.0 ideas haven’t arrived yet. Those who should don’t use the tools, while there’s some scattered use now and then, there’s pretty little use on a company scale.

And really important: People asked do not recognise the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 (yet, these will only be really visible when these tools get used in an integrated, enterprise scale way)

Some Learnings
- Integrated E 2.0 solutions will have to replace insular tools
- Enterprise 2.0 will change the way we companies collaborate, exchange knowledge and ideas
- We as consultants must work hard to explain the benefits, to show them the usage etc.

Closing there was a round of statements and questions from the audience, all things that are bothering them:

- projects not working as wished
- we’re working in small teams, but they seem to don’t work well together
- we’re suffering from bad motivation among our employees – they seem to be too content
- we sense that we could be more innovative, but don’t know how to proceed
- we are a big organization, how can we kill the hierarchy (Sören says that one way may be a meritocracy, someone from the audience: make flat project teams, you need to network and build these small teams, this is a good idea even for big enterprises)
- listening is sometimes the bottle-neck, it is easy to make them write blogposts, but it’s hard to listen and act upon the things read (Sören offers a good idea: support the formation of weak ties in the organization, e.g. by having rounds of bilateral talks in the organization, whereby you create conversations and change the organization in the course of talking)

This was a good session, I enjoyed the audience participation and the presenters way of going on about this, Frank and Oliver did some liveblogging too, so I will link to their posts shortly.

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Web 2.0 Expo Workshop: Dion Hinchcliffe on Rewriting the rules of the web

Dion Hinchcliffe was giving a high-energy workshop today at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin. Frank did his best in taking notes here and here, this was no easy task as Dion (which btw is a really amiably guy, met him yesterday at the Berlin geek dinner …) is a fast speaker, and he gave us a rough ride through web 2.0, warts ‘n all. In fact, Dion said that his talk is the condensed version of the material he’s using at the Web 2.0 university, i.e. his executive web 2.0 bootcamps (The Future of Online Business – Bootcamps).

He explained a wide range of stuff related to web 2.0, including technological backgrounds, agility, basic rules and characteristics, economic rules like Metcalfe’s law, success factors and ways to progress in this new competitive landscape.

Here are the essential 7 rules and observations that define this space:
- web as platform
- data as the ‘intel inside’
- end of software release cycle (but please, let us all replace the worn out beta by something along the lines of agility, adaptivity etc.)
- lightweight software and business models (see here my notes on Scott Hirschs Be like the Internet session this morning)
- software and many (increasingly portable and ubiquitiously connected) devices
- rich user experience (Ajax, RIA)
- collective intelligence

And the design patterns that rule:
- long tail
- users add value
- network effects by default (Metcalfe, Reed)
- some rights reserved
- perpetual beta (agility and adaptivity, please)
- cooperate, don’t control
- architecture of participation

Enterprise 2.0 wasn’t a real topic in itself, yet Dion handled a lot of stuff that is extremely important in the Enterprise: Usability, motivation, ease of use, and yes, network effects, especially the ways to enhance adoption. If you want more information on this part of the talk, get in touch.

In relation to wikis, Dion shared a lot of stories and experiences and explained the rationale behind their use, for more info get in touch as well. I need to get into Tim O’Reilly’s keynote early on …

Update: Oliver liveblogged from the session as well (german).

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Be like the Internet

OK, now I am in my first workshop at the Web 2.0 Expo. Scott Hirsch, founder of Management Innovation Group (MIG) out of San Francisco is inviting people to think about innovation issues they are facing.

[...] getting honest about the real assets you bring to the table and finding ways to work with the network instead of fighting the changes it represents. This means explicitly changing the way you work and collaborate to set direction, scope opportunity, and build capabilities to rapidly assess business changes and react to them … or choose not to react.

Unfortunately I’ve been late to the show (thanks to Berlins public traffic system …), so I missed the introductory informations. I will try to get my hands on the slides, and provide the agenda and more then.

Scott introduced the audience to the changed business environment in the Web 2.0 era, some important points being

  • You don’t own your ideas
  • It is really easy to start a business (and you don’t want to own the infrastructure)

First part of the workshop: Bottom up Innovation – A personal guide to Disrupting the World

  • Characteristics of web 2.0 innovators (don’t overcommit to solutions, don’t overplan strategy, embrace many points of view and transparency, …)
  • Traits (humble, flexible, facilitative, persuasive, collaborative, passionate, persistent – but not defensive)
  • They create cultures to manage (uncertainty, openness, leadership, management, hiring, strategy, competition, marketing, business and product development, …)

Nice thought and metaphor: “Web 2.0 innovators look at their business like a poker game, not a chess game”

- you don’t have all the information you need
- you constantly get more information from the other players
- you have to pay to play and for information
- every round there’s a new round of cards
- business case is useless, you just look at options

Nice example of Web 2.0 innovators view of strategy (comparing friendster, MySpace and Facebook) along axes of openness/closedness and awareness (also hinting at openness for evolving complementing business ecosystems)

Jotspot and Google as examples for how Web 2.0 innovators look at business models

Web 2.0 innovators view of management (opportunity cost is the scarce resource, not people, time or money), comparing Yahoo (fear of false positives) and Google (fear of false negatives).

Web 2.0 innovators view themselves as facilitators rather than managers, and encourage smart divergence over quick convergence.

Continued after the break, in fact I have blogged notes on the second part of Scott Hirschs workshop over at my BMID-blog: Uncovering Strategies and Business Models

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