Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The “Secret Sauce” of Virtual Collaboration - Tip #173

There’s an interesting study released in 2017 about remote workers. Titled “The Human Face of Remote Working,” it discovered that remote workers seek a human connection. Through collaborative technologies, they build better co-worker relationships and are more empathic.

“Nearly all (98%) of employees said that collaborative technologies make it easier to get to know, or build relationships with co-workers and nearly half said that they know colleagues more personally thanks to video conferencing.”

When it comes to training and development, this means leveraging the collaborative technologies already in place to create more opportunities for meaningful interaction between trainer and learners, as well as among learners themselves.

How do we do this? As with other things in this internet age, Google has the answer.

Project Aristotle

Back in 2012, Google launched an initiative called Project Aristotle. The goal was to find out the “secret sauce” behind the success (or failure) of teams. Google had 180 teams from all over the company, and so researchers were able to collect a lot of data.

‘‘We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference,” Abeer Dubey, Google’s director of People Analytics shared. “The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

So, what mattered? What made some teams soar while others stumble?

The ‘Secret Sauce’ of Successful Teams

It really boils down to two things: “conversational turn taking” and “social sensitivity.”

Conversational turn taking means that each member of the team had equal time to express their views as the rest listened. To achieve this, team environment must be psychologically safe. Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines “psychological safety” as “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.”

‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well. But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined,’’ said Anita Woolley, lead author of this research that aimed to find out if there’s a collective I.Q. in human groups.

Tip: Catch learners attention with story arguments and encourage them to express their sentiments with story questions.

Social sensitivity, on the other hand, is being skilled at recognizing how others felt based on verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as being able to empathize with other members of the team.

Tip: To encourage this, create a virtual water cooler, party or social networking features. This will enable individuals to connect with each other on a more personal and emotional level. This informal connection will reinforce social bonds that will make collaboration easier.

With virtual collaboration fast becoming the norm in the modern workforce, it’s important to keep in mind what makes a team really click. “The whole is more than the sum” pretty much summarizes what true collaboration means. It’s the “secret sauce” to spectacular success and innovation.


WorkplaceTrends.com. The Human Face of Remote Work Study. March 21, 2017
Charles Duhigg. What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. The New York Times, February 25, 2016
Erica Dhawan. The Secret Weapon For Collaboration. Forbes, April 14, 2016
Anita Williams Woolley, et al. Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. Science 330, 686 (2010)
Tip #43 - How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson
Tip #117 - 5 Story Arguments that Compel Learners to Pay Attention
Tip #137 - How to Be a Kung Fu Webinar and Virtual Trainer Master

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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