This is part 1 of a 2 part post on disruptive technologies and the collaborative economy.
For decades now, busy working people have struggled with time and tasks in the workplace. Meetings have been especially difficult, in that for all their great intentions, they are still identified as one of the greatest time wasters of all (followed closely by email). Consequently there is a strong economic incentive to refine the way meetings are run. However up until recently, there existed no practical alternative to the act of stuffing a collection of people in a room with the goal of having them emerge with some level of consensus.
But now the age of ZeroDistance has arrived, and disruptive technologies are challenging the way things are done, breaking down the walls of a long-established status quo and replacing them with more productive alternatives. Perhaps there is no better example of this than the very common scenario known as the “meeting.”
Imagine for a moment that you are the chairperson of your team’s meeting. Last week your assistant scoured the online calendars of your team and pounced on the first mutually available spot: Thursday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00. Regardless whether that time was already informally earmarked by each of the invitees for other work, the space was there, defenceless. Invites were sent out electronically and the first available room was booked. Decline at your peril.
Now it is 2:15 Thursday afternoon. The meeting started late, as usual, as stragglers arrived, some still talking on their phones. You start by passing around printouts of the agenda and the PowerPoint slide deck, and as you survey the group assembled around the boardroom table, you notice half of them are typing away on their laptops, phones and tablets, and are not looking at you. “How rude,” you think to yourself, and immediately the tension reflects in your voice.
But these attendees, who may at first glance be considered to be just employees or colleagues, are in fact customers. You expect them to buy what you are selling (in terms of the meeting’s structure) in the same manner that their predecessors always did, but strangely they demand more. Welcome to the age of ZeroDistance, where the customer has become the company, even internally. Disruptive technology has started to break through and has injected change and improvement into the established meeting tradition delivering numerous possibilities, such as:
- The objectives and agenda of the meeting distributed in advance in the form of a 60-second YouTube-style video, posted in a collaborative workspace alongside a comment page, where meeting participants – whether available to attend or not – contribute their ideas to the agenda in a cascading FaceBook-style comment page. The meeting time is cut down to one-half or one quarter.
- A clear meeting policy is introduced company-wide; one that that allows participants to use their devices in the room: to take notes, to research additional support material, to silently text other participants, to silently text the chairperson, to capture the meeting on Skype for the invitees who cannot attend, to record the meeting’s action items to a meeting wiki, to put out other fires and answer emails that would have otherwise necessitated their absence from the meeting, or simply to doodle. Yes, doodle. Some people learn better when their hands and eyes are occupied with mindless tasks, and people have been doing this on actual paper for as long as meetings have existed.
Bear in mind the objective of a meeting has always been to move an idea forward; and the dollar value of a meeting should always exceed the individual per-hour value of each attendee – otherwise they should be doing something else with their time. And with ZeroDistance, technology has finally caught up to a point where the educational, intellectual and ergonomic needs of any meeting can be fully addressed. With a little training in these new techniques a company can vastly improve the results and simultaneously reduce the costs of its meeting culture.
ZeroDistance technology is both an economic disruptor and Workplace disruptor. It changes the ways things are done, and it changes them for the better. BYOD technologies that conform to an individual’s personal style (you love your iPad, I love my Android) meet up in the shared data space of the cloud, and team members simultaneously edit and adjust documents in a collaborative workroom. Attendees interact rather than merely react.
Just as the customers outside the walls of the office demand higher levels of attention and care, so, too, do the customers inside; for these are, for the most part ambitious, motivated professionals who understand that meetings do not need to be run like grade-school classes (eyes front, no doodling and NO passing notes). Meetings are supposed to be dynamic environments where the term itself, meeting, refers to the bringing together of minds, experience and ideas, rather than just warm bodies. If these internal customers’ expectations are not met, they will vote with their feet, just as retail customers do.
Collaboration brings with it great payoff, not only in immediate synergy and creativity, but longer-term through employee engagement and loyalty. ZeroDistance is transforming the workplace from a box in which people are kept, to a point in space and time around which they may orbit, contributing more of their skills and energy through the flexibilities afforded by disruptive technology.
Sponsored by T-Systems and the Zero Distance community
By Steve Prentice
Steve Prentice is a project manager, writer, speaker and expert on productivity in the workplace, specifically the juncture where people and technology intersect. He is a senior writer for CloudTweaks.