Posts Tagged collaboration
When I left university I joined the British retailing institution that is Marks and Spencer, and of the many things that I learned about business, the most precious of all was that you set your business up for the 99% not the other 1%.
I know you are thinking what the hell is this guy talking about? So I will explain.
Note: This guest post by Richard Egan has a focus on education but the principles covered can easily be translated into other settings. Collaborative tools like MindMeister are powerful ways to bring people and their ideas together.
Online collaboration has become very popular in both education and business. We now have the ability to easily and freely share all file types using different cloud based platforms. People working collectively on a project or assignment no longer need to be in the same room or even in the same country for that matter.
Collaborative platforms have enabled educators to create online learning environments where students can benefit from sharing ideas and communicating with each other, their mentors and external organizations.
Mind Mapping and Online Collaboration
Mind maps are an excellent method for individuals to graphically represent and structure ideas or thoughts. It is a very valuable tool which can be used for project management, creating to-do lists, idea generation, planning articles or papers.
Mind mapping can be implemented for collaborating and brainstorming, it gives students a platform to work simultaneously and a facility for learning together. Introducing mind mapping to students is a great way to encourage group participation and when managed properly will generate great results.
Benefits of Collaborative Tools:
- Easier project management
- More informed decision making
- Promotes critical thinking
- Meetings and brainstorming sessions conducted remotely
- Develop new skills for a business environment
- Files stored in one place i.e. no waiting for a document to be emailed
- Improved communication between students, lecturers and research groups
Collaboration: Mind Mapping Uses
Using mind mapping for collaboration presents students with the opportunity to share ideas with peers and to think creatively through social inspiration. I have made a list of some of the situations where mind mapping can be used as a solution for online collaboration.
- Managing group projects
- Class assignments
- Sharing lecture notes
- Brainstorming sessions
- Study sessions
- Group presentations
The video below is an example of multiple users collaborating on one map – they are creating an IKEA shopping list for their office. All changes to the mind map can be seen in real-time by all collaborators
Mind Mapping Example: Project Management
The next time you are assigned a group project in school or college I would encourage you to use a mind map from the beginning. To get started you can follow these easy steps:
- Create a mind map with title of project
- Invite all teams members to be collaborators
- Have a brainstorming session with all collaborators
At this point you should have a map with many topics, ideas and tasks to be completed. The next step is to appoint a team leader who can:
- Sort and structure all the information in the map
- Delegate tasks, create deadlines and set reminders for each member
Once this has been completed you will have very quickly created a project plan and a great starting point for the project. In addition to this, create another mind map with all details of each team member i.e. contact details, to-do lists and daily schedules; it can then be linked to the main map. The purpose for this is that everyone can see what the other is doing, progress can be monitored and meetings can be easily scheduled to suit everyone.
Some of the mind mapping software providers also support smartphones and tablets meaning that members can literally participate whenever or wherever they may be!
Online collaboration is becoming ever more important and is being used by businesses all over the world to increase productivity and creativity. Following the principle that two brains are better than one many companies are taking advantage of new software being made available to them. Collaborating online has many benefits in education but it is also very important that students are prepared for such working environments after their studies.
New online collaborative tools are emerging every day with numerous platforms for saving and sharing files, conducting meetings and managing projects. Mind mapping is one such tool but with a bit of a difference, it is a visual tool. Not only can files be stored and shared on the cloud but you can also see and watch how the whole thought process evolved and how a conclusion was formed or how a plan was made. And because each collaborator can add to a mind map simultaneously no one person can dominate the direction or outcome!
- Improving Academic Performance with Mind Mapping (hbculifestyle.com)
- Mind Mapping Workshop (slideshare.net)
- How Mind Maps Can Help Organize and Create Content (contently.com)
How many times do you find yourself in a slump. We need to shake off the old and create a new way of generating new ideas. We need to make some magic, create some sparks, razzle and dazzle, have some fun! When I read this post from Seth Godin it got me to thinking:
An end of magic
Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.
So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.
How to Make the Magic
This is a fun exercise to take your team or department through. You can read about the process in one my previous posts “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never“. But basically, take several idea lists you’ve created and follow the “Innovation Bonus Exercise” in the above post. Then take some of those ideas and create you own little science fiction episode of “Stargete”, “Sanctuary”, or “Startrek” in which your team runs accross a civilazation with advanced technology like some of the crazy items on your list and they now have to revewrse engenere it to gain the benefits of the new found technology.
You might be surprised how many of the way-out-there crazy ideas turn into actionable realistic projects for your team to investigate further.
It’s a fun off-site day, especially if you have a bunch of techie scifi geeks on your team!
When I hear in meetings that people don’t know why they are doing something or why a certain policy is in place I begin to wonder how much time is wasted on things we are just doing because we’ve always done them that way. This post was triggered after reading “I can’t believe we’re still doing that” which brought back a lot of memories about team meetings that I facilitated and the frustration I had because there was such a resistance to change when confronting obsolete work. Now I want to admit that I thought I had posted on this exercise in the past but after searching my archive I didn’t find it referenced. Sorry about that.
Setting the Stage
This exercise is great when change occurs naturally in the workplace. It does not need to be forced. But I must admit, when I am called in as an outsider to facilitate change meetings it is very natural for me to use this tool. If you are managing a team or organizations, there are still may opportunities to use this tool:
- New Leadership – often a great time to realign your department or team when a new leader is ready to add a new twist or their own perspective to the role of the organization.
- New Management – this is a great time to review ‘why’ we do things. There are times when the past choices are allowed to be questioned as to why we are doing something.
- Direction Change – often with new management or leadership comes a direction change and a time to evaluate past traditional work and possibly make changes.
- New Team Member – sometimes a new set of eyes brings a new perspective. And remember, those new team members have past experiences for you to gain from as well.
- New Competitor – nothing can be more jarring than a new threat in the vicinity. This change is ideal to reevaluate what the team is doing and make some needed changes.
- New Capability – learning something new is a great time to make changes. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning a new lens or gaining new tools or skills that allow you to reevaluate past norms.
- Measurement Changes – remember always “you are what you measure” and at times those measurements tell you that something is wrong or something unexpectedly went well. This is a great time to pull the team together and analyze the outlier.
Pick your change. For the most part any change that occurs in your normal business cycle becomes an opportunity to evaluate your norms and possibly make some changes. My only word of advice is that you don’t use “Start, Stop, Continue” too much.
You will need three surfaces, I tend to use three large tear off sheets taped to a wall, with each one title with one of there topics: START, STOP, and CONTINUE. You will need sticky notes and writing materials, and sticky dots handed out to each person attending the meeting.
You will provide the participants a problem to solve in which they must come up with ideas on how to improve something by stating things they would START, STOP, or CONTINUE doing. Here are some suggestions for problems to solve:
- How can we make this department better?
- How can we reduced the total elapsed time of a specific process?
- How can we reduce the duration of a specific task?
- How can we improve the customer experience?
- How can we reduce the returned product / restocking percentages?
- How can we decrease the Account Receivable averages and improve cash flow?
Have the team write their ideas on the sticky notes and place it on the correct START, STOP, or CONTINUE sheet.
Facilitation Tip: This brainstorming session is sometimes best SILENT. As a general rule if there is a superior in rank or position in the room and someone may try to “impress the boss” by controlling the session, or an (opinionated) person who naturally commands all the discussions, then make this part of the exercise “SILENT ONLY” and limit the damage.
If the STOP page seems sparse after the activity is underway, then stop the team and force them to evaluate that specific area alone.
Facilitation Tip: If you have a process map already created for a specific process you are asking the team to improve then make sure the process is visible somewhere in the meeting room. If you don’t have the process thoroughly mapped out then begin first by mapping the process into a swim-lane chart so everyone can understand what they are being asked to improve.
Group and Rank Suggestions
Have the team go through a nominal grouping exercise where they attached similar ideas together. Allow the tam to challenge each other. If an idea seems to fall into two groups then create a second sticky note and have the team move on with other groupings. Then identify any associations between the grouped items (i.e. Item 2 can’t be started or completed without Item 1 having been accomplished first).
Then have the team vote on which items they think are best. Give each person 5 or 10 sticky dots. They can place dots on any of the grouped items. They can place multiple dots on any one group if they feel strongly that a specific items needs more attention. (Don’t let them place all their dots on one item though).
This will produce a list of items the group either believes are low hanging fruit or very important and need to be addressed.
We are looking for
- Obsolete Steps
- Eliminate Points of Failure
- Reduce Inter-Departmental Hand-offs
- Reduce Elapsed Times
- New tasks in an existing process
- New processes
- Purchase new software / tools
- New classes to educate staff
- New Hire orientation updated lists
- All existing items not found on the STOP / START sheets that the team is already performing.
I hope you enjoy this exercise. Let me know how it went.
One of my favorite tools for team collaboration and idea collection is MindMeister. I use it for organizing my thoughts on large blog posts (see Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle and Mind Map: The iPad Battle), helping my boys organize their thoughts for their school writing assignments, and many more instances. Because it can update the mind map in real time with many users signed into the map simultaneously, I have found it to be valuable when working on conference calls while trying to keep the team focused and not hindering the collection of tangent ideas in the middle of a thought stream that is being debated.
MindMeister 4.7 has been announced with some improved features:
- drag and drop attachments and images directly from their desktop to a selected node
- Google API used to view attached files rather then requiring you to download them
- a new social sidebar
- Auto Condensing of maps
- iCalendar task feed has been updated
- Team Edition will now find custom branding options
Check out MindMeister, I think it will help you organize your thoughts and projects.
- Mindmapping for Medical Students (slideshare.net)
- MindMeister for iPad Now Available (magicaltablet.com)
- 15 Creative Brainstorming Tools For Free (madrasgeek.com)
- Mind Mapping is a Great Way to Brainstorm (gcsagents.com)
Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups. I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities. If you have a team collaboration tool you would like included in my analysis, please leave a comment with tools name and URL.
I am working with a team of five students chartered with the task of creating a new product for the marketplace. I recommended and have created a private Google Groups site for us to collaborate in. I personally have used this tool in the past for social media experiments, all private, so I am completely aware of the tools limitations and strengths. This seemed to be a perfect fit for the diverse team we find ourselves on. Each person in the team has a demanding schedule and other responsibilities to attend to.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about Google Groups and how this tool can help groups or communities work together and avoid the need to hold traditional meetings or conference calls.
Google Groups Functionality
This is the main page with provide a summary of activity and the main navigation points to the rest of the stie.
A place where your team can create thought streams which other teammates can reply to, brainstorm, or refine their ideas. If the team can remain disciplined to keep the thought streams together, it becomes a very strong tool in collecting and refining team ideas.
Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups. I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities.
Comparable to web pages, these are places to store content rich knowledge. It is a collection point of information that would normally be stored in a document or single piece of work. Discussions can be generated from pages.
Files that are externally created can be imported into a common storage area for the entire team to review. Discussions cannot be generated from files.
Tools needed to manage subscriber lists, the site’s look and feel, and pending discussions or posts if moderation is turned on.
You can create/response to discussions via a team email address. The system can notifiy you each time a new message is created. You can set the frequency based on your personal or group requirements. I nice feature I love is “Subject Prefix”. This allows me to have the team set filters in their email clients to help organize and manage team activities.
Several Google Groups Concerns
This is not really an issue of Google Groups but rather the people you invite into your group. This tool only works if people use it. The quality of the work generated in this environment is only as good as the participation of its members. This tool does not completely remove meetings from the project but it does allow a diverse set of teammates to work on their assignments, any hour of the day, request and provide feedback on their work and others, and be productive beyond the normal meeting driven project.
Page – Content Rich
By this, Google means words and pictures. They draw the line with anything the Google Development team deems as a security risk. So trying to embed a JAVA applet of your team Google Calendar is not allowed. I’m sure the Google Calendar integration issue will be resolved at some time in the future. Yet, if your team desires to store examples of dynamic content rich code on your Google Groups site, you will need to find another creative way to do this.
The notification system default is to alert you each time a new message is placed on the site. With very active members or projects, you could return to their desk and find hundreds, if not thousands, of emails in their in-box notifying you of all the changes the team had made.
Poor SMS Support
Considering the SMS support built into other Google Tools, like Calendar, I found this omission a bit strange. It could be they simply expect you to rely on email, but most phones can send SMS to email now. A work around is to use the filter features of your mail client to then forward a copy to your cell phone as a SMS. With a real active group, you could set your phone on vibrate and rent it out as a personal massage device because it’s going to be going off a lot. You might want to change the notification settings to digest or abridged at that point.
The ROI Hunters find this tool to be very productive. We would love to hear how your team has used it. What you believe it’s strengths and weaknesses are. Please leave a comment.