“Remote Team Members Need Each Other.”
Knowledge sharing is fundamental to a team’s collective knowledge, intelligence and abilities.
According to Benjamin Jones, in his 2009 paper The Burden of Knowledge, the ability to achieve higher levels of team knowledge is particularly dependent on the sharing, and the learning, around new information discovered by team members.
Fundamentally to increase innovation and knowledge, team members need each other. In a remote team it is very important that people find ways to efficiently share knowledge with their teammates, so their collective intelligence can increase and the distributed team can grow stronger. Seeking, filtering and sharing new information is core to developing collective intelligence and smart teams. If you need a further theory to back this up, Stephen Downes is excellent on the value of connective knowledge.
Remote Working is a Growing Trend
A survey of business leaders at the Global Leadership Summit found that a third of businesses expect more than half their company’s workforce to be working remotely by 2020. This is partly due to changes in technology, employee demand for flexibility and a desire to lower costs. Remote working is particularly common amongst knowledge workers with 79 percent of knowledge workers in a global survey by PGI saying they work from home.
Remote working studies appear to consistently confirm the benefits including:
More efficiency – A report from Connect Solutions says fewer distractions (for disciplined remote workers) can lead to higher efficiency.
Higher productivity – In one survey two-thirds of managers say employees who work remotely increased their overall productivity.
Lower stress and happier workers – A study by PGI found that 80 percent of staff have higher morale when working from home, and 69 percent reported lower absenteeism. Additionally 82 percent of telecommuters reported lower stress levels.
Lower staff turnover – A study published by Stanford University found that remote working reduced employee turnover, in some cases turnover fell by over 50 percent.
However, there are a number of challenges for remote or distributed teams including management and communication. The specific challenge we are addressing here is knowledge sharing and collective intelligence.
Where’s The Water Cooler?
Workplaces can be noisy and inefficient, but they do make it very easy to swivel your chair, or bump into a colleague at the water cooler and say “take a look at this”. We’ve also all that that experience of prairie dogging – standing up and asking the colleagues within your sight line a question, and getting a quick answer. It’s random, but when it works it works. Distributed and remote teams need to be more organised and conscious in how they seek and share knowledge.
Four Steps to Knowledge Sharing in Distributed Teams
We set out below a four step process for improving knowledge sharing in a remote or distributed team. For more general tips on effective remote working see our Remote Working Briefing.
1. Seek new information
Each team member has an ongoing responsibility to seek out new information which will be helpful to them and the wider team. We can all become obsolete if we don’t keep learning.
There is no shortage of new information with millions of new articles and research papers published every day. The challenge is where to start. You can review industry sites, check rss feeds, social networks etc., but this is time consuming. Our approach at Anders Pink is to set up a number of automatically curated briefings that pull together new content from a range of sources into a single daily briefing. In our AP app you can auto curate content each day as follows:
- Keywords that highlight recent articles. We search millions of sites every day and we can bring into your daily briefing articles that match keywords.
- Content shared by influencers. Add Twitter handles and we will pull into your briefing content shared by these influencers.
- Content published by domains. Add domains such as competitors or industry sites and we will add to your briefing the latest content they publish.
- RSS feeds. You can add RSS feeds to your briefings. You can either add all articles rom an RSS feed to just articles that match your keywords or topics.
This new information arrives in a single dashboard each day and is updated throughout the day. This means there’s a considerable time saving over looking at multiple sites and sources for the latest information. Also, since the briefing is shared with everyone in your team, you’re not seeing any less than your colleagues in head office, or having that sense of being left out of vital information streams.
2. Sense and filter
Not every article you read or piece of information you come across will be valuable. It is the task of each team member to make sense of the information and to filter what they come across. This involves some reflection and validation, is the new information accurate and useful? Sometimes it can be useful to discuss the new information with colleagues to help with the validation process. Asking “Is this relevant to us? Is it a risk, or opportunity?” are helpful ways to analyse new information.
3. Share every day
It is not enough to stay smart individually, to read and reflect on your own but to contribute to our teams and networks by sharing. Sharing is really important to your team. It is how you leverage the knowledge of the team to increase its collective intelligence. Smart teams are efficient are seeking, sensing and sharing new information. As Clark Quinn puts it, “the room is smarter than the smartest person in the room.” That’s true of virtual rooms too.
Personally I think one target that should be on everyone’s personal development plan is contributing to the team’s knowledge. In our AP app we track who is sharing and commenting on new information and leading the collective intelligence drive.
4. Use tools to improve your knowledge sharing
There are many tools you can use to improve your collaboration and knowledge sharing. You may have internal tools built around software such as Sharepoint or social sharing tools such as Yammer.
Each remote team needs a tool stack. Here is a tool stack that can help remote teams in my experience:
A great group messaging and communication tool. Can go a long way to replicating the chatter and proxmity factor of a shared workplace, but organised into channels.
Daily briefings for your team on the latest relevant new articles and the ability to share, upvote and comment on articles. Also the ability to flag articles to team members via Slack channels and to save articles to pinboards to build a knowledge base.
A useful suite of tools to share and collaborate on new content from reports to presentations. Supports real time collaboration across remote teams, and Google takes care of saving and sharing.
A great way to manage projects across distributed teams. Set up projects, create tasks, assign, comment, reprioritise in real time. Integrates with Slack too.
Still a go-to for VoIP after all these years. Screen sharing and video calls all work very nicely on desktop and mobile.
Ready to keep your remote team briefed and to promote the sharing of new content? Try the Anders Pink App for free and see if we can help you filter the content you care about and provide your team with a better daily briefing.