The future of work needs smart collaboration
May 10, 2020 . 6 min read
future of work
The ability to collaborate at scale in a dynamic way is what sets us apart from other animals. I totally stole this concept from Yuval Harari’s book, Home Deus and I deeply believe in it.
Now, more than ever, we need to do a better job at collaborating with one another - our office has invaded our home, school seems to have settled into our living room and there is a very blurry line between family and work time. As time passes and lockdown continues, that line seems to be disappearing. How can we regain it?
How can we be more collaborative, yet more effective without the need to be constantly communicating? The world is living the single biggest experiment on the working from home front and I reckon this will forever change the way we collaborate. The big question remains, are we going to be able to do that in a smart way?
This is not necessarily a new problem; collaboration in a corporate environment is challenging, silos between departments tend to multiply, information is owned by individuals that act as gatekeepers. Reports and insights, when shared, are done via conference calls or email with the documents attached. In the best cases scenario you might work for a company that uses some sort of share folder and this is fantastic, yet far from ideal. In short, we tend to do a terrible job at sharing information, and that is one of the most important ingredients for effective collaboration.
We all have been through that endless email search to see if we can find that amazing report from that colleague … “ what was his name....?...hmm, I don’t remember”. Or, we needed to go through all those notes (physical and digital ones) looking for that piece of insight that we are not 100% sure of, but desperately need. I reckon every single one of us have spent numerous hours in identical or worst types of situations.
In the knowledge economy, collaborating in an inefficient way can be very bad for the overall performance of the organization and, one might argue, for employee happiness. To better understand the future of collaboration I have tried to map some of the tools available out there, you can check them out here.
🗒️ Note taking for all
Can you imagine how great it will be if you could have access to your organization’s processes, procedures and workflows in the same tool where you take notes? What if that note taking app would be sleek, very well organized, with a fun experience and all that data would be completely secured and proprietary? It sounds like a dream? Nope, it can be a reality.
Slite and Notion are great examples of note taking apps that are designed with collaboration in mind. You can create workplaces or even wikis with information that is shared with all your colleagues from different departments and countries. No more stupid questions about how to apply leave on the HR system or anything like that! What’s more, you can also keep all your personal notes in the same application, deciding to share, or not, depending on the content.
📋 Documentation made easy
Companies love their process, documentation, flowcharts and are obsessed with efficiency. Yet it is almost impossible to find information about these topics. It seems that how-tos, wiki documents, flowchart pdfs and all these very important documents that employees spent a lot of time putting together are nowhere to be found when you really need them. What a waste!
Fortunately, companies like Bloomfire, Slab and Guru, to name a few, are democratizing information and knowledge across organizations. They want to break silos and enable employees to have access to knowledge so that everyone can be performant while reducing the noise generated by email and messages. In short, goodbye emails, hello knowledge management solutions.
🔢 Spreadsheets reinvented
The world is run by spreadsheets and I think we all have this love-hate relationship with them. We can’t live without them, especially in today’s world, and we would love to be able to do more with them… way more! But it seems that the traditional tools aren’t able to deliver on that. Why can’t I share that amazing graph, or analysis, on a browser? Sending attachments seems a thing of the past, why can’t I just embed my document somewhere and send it? How quickly can my excel be turned in a gantt diagram or a proper PMO? Traditional spreadsheets leave a lot to be desired.
With so many pain points to solve for it is fantastic to see a lot of new tools that are adding value to the space, Airtable and Grid are great examples. If your work requires building graphs and sharing them with colleagues or clients, Grid has you covered. In a very simple way Grid will turn your spreadsheet into a web report, dashboard or interactive application.
Airtable is, as they put it, “part spreadsheet, part database, and entirely flexible”. You have to think as if you could build your kanban, calendar, gallery and form out of the same spreadsheet. What’s more, all of this data is available given that they have API's for all the spreadsheets that you build.
☝️ One more thing
Nothing that was mentioned before would ever be possible without the internet and the power of rendering information on the browser for any user to consume. All the tools that were mentioned leverage that, and the corporate world should understand the power of sharing information on this infrastructure instead of letting the traditional collaboration tools grow and accelerate the existence of silos, inefficiencies and as a result less collaboration and more noise in the corporate environment.
Mapping the future of work
I created a small directory of startups crushingwfh with the intent of helping anyone that is working from home. In my mind, this simple web app would be the cheat- sheet for everyone that is working from home. As such, it will need to have all possible tools and, as off now, you will find tools that could help you with:
Coding, or better, learning to code;
- Password Management;
- Project Management;
- Scheduling meetings;
- Time Tracking;
- Video Conferencing
This is a live directory and will morph and evolve over time. Anyone can add tools, if they feel they are missing, but more importantly you can download the tools here.
I hope this is helpful and thank you for reading this far!
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