When ‘going online’ invites us to rethink (also face-to-face) interactions – A new dawn for collaboration?

How do you approach the world, and life?

You likely tend to consider that things are either ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’. I personally always adopted the half full glass, as a guarantee for an easier life.

Yin and yang

A new dawn of collaboration through a double-lens perspective (photo credit: Eleonora Albasi / FlickR)

So there we have it, the bloody Coronavirus crisis.

Affecting, transforming, crushing, redefining, alienating, crystallising, metabolising our lives and perspectives.

Our social interactions have started to change. The result of social – oops, physical – distancing:

Screenshot 2020-03-18 at 21.05.11

My social stream is full of anecdotes relating to this new social reality. Amidst this novel situation, people are subtly taking notice of some interesting process aspects…

A small interaction that made me smile this morning: A team member who is based in a different country and thus always works remotely with our otherwise co-located team was excited this morning that: “Now you will all be here with me!” With “here” she meant the remote space. All of a sudden we are all at the same level and the hierarchy of “in the room” and “remote” is gone. Which also made me think of the way that we sometimes call people who call into a meeting the “virtual folks” or the “phone people”, as if we, the hosts, were the only ones with physical bodies in a real space and our own space somehow mattered more than theirs…

(Eva Schiffer, KM4Dev message)

In another recent chat I had to quickly pull together some good practices for online collaboration, one person mentioned that “online meetings take so much more preparation than face-to-face ones“. And that made me smile. For at least two reasons:

1. People are waking up to the ABC of collaboration and to process literacy

Many people are currently forced to move their meetings etc. online as they are struggling with frozen travel, frozen budgets, self isolation, quarantine, home arrest-type situations etc., people are indeed realising that it takes some effort to work together online… Like it requires:

  • some idea of the conversations you want to have
  • some idea of what you want to achieve for each of these conversations
  • some sense of what can realistically be achieved in an online meting without making people too tired or jaded
  • some thinking about the best process to involve everyone’s best thinking and to tap into the collective intelligence
  • some use of facilitation skills (in whatever configuration) to hold all of this together
  • some preparation by the participants to also make the most of their time together
  • some etiquette for people to be able to collaborate together (ie. showing your face, muting when you’re not talking etc. – hopefully more from me on this soon)
  • ideally, some level of familiarity, or even trust among the people present
  • and some thinking about the technology stewardship (who will take care of setting up the online platform, translating the process online etc.)…

Frankly this is great news, it means people are slowly getting a hang of what working with other fellow human beings actually means in practice. Here is the first half of this new dawn for collaboration: online (or blended with face-to-face) collaboration everywhere, all the time, with people that are actually more set up for success than they’ve ever been…

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! (photo credit: Tone’o / FlickR)

Pity we had to wait for the Coronavirus to get us on this pathway but whatever it takes, the trend is very encouraging, even uplifting!

Hallelujah!

Err, wait, hold on… something’s funny here…

2. We have taken face-to-face meetings, workshops and conferences for granted for too long

It just dawned on me, when I heard online meetings take a lot more preparation than face-to-face ones, that we are discovering some plain truths that have been smiling at us all along in the face-to-face realm. We just haven’t dealt with this face to face (pun intended).

Because, let’s be frank, when we prepare face-to-face interactions, what it takes is:

  • some idea of the conversations you want to have
  • some idea of what you want to achieve for each of these conversations
  • some sense of what can realistically be achieved in an online meting without making people too tired or jaded
  • some thinking about the best process to involve everyone’s best thinking and to tap into the collective intelligence
  • some use of facilitation skills (in whatever configuration) to hold all of this together
  • some preparation by the participants to also make the most of their time together
  • some etiquette for people to be able to collaborate together
  • ideally, some level of familiarity, or even trust among the people present

The only glaring difference with online meetings is skipping the technological stewardship, though even on that account, the logistical side of prepping a meeting room has similarities to setting up a virtual gathering space.

We’ve been eating bad (face-to-face) meetings for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all these years. We’ve been force-fed so much that we don’t even see it any more. Not enough people think carefully about the conversations and outcomes they’re dreaming of. Not enough people pay attention to the processes that can get us there. Not nearly enough do people invite facilitation as a practice – whether held by one or two central facilitators or ensured collectively by teams and groups. Hardly anyone thinks about getting participants to actually pay attention to preparing themselves adequately for a workshop or meeting. And in a room where the facilitative capacity of the group is low or missing, the collaboration etiquette leaves much to be desired…

So here’s the second part of this hopeful collaboration dawn: our online interactions might just be the unlikely trojan horse to bringing back some sense even into our face-to-face gatherings, and giving us a well-needed sense of taking our interactions and collaboration a few notches more seriously than we have all along.

It may well be that we don’t get any opportunity to test this hypothesis for a while, as home lock down is here to stay for the next few weeks, but this new reality certainly brings new opportunities indeed!

I know, I’m a desperately optimistic fool, but that leaves me some more to drink ahead, and I cheer to that!

And if this turns to be true, well thank you Coronavirus…

Corona Positive 89851348_10157141301002992_8784272847007645696_n

Related stories:

One thought on “When ‘going online’ invites us to rethink (also face-to-face) interactions – A new dawn for collaboration?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s