When online collaboration is better than face-to-face.

brandfiercely1Creative Process, Digital

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Considering the current state of FS+C, the title of this Harvard Business Review article immediately caught my attention: Online Collaboration is Sometimes Better Than Face-to-Face. If you visit here often, you know I am strong supporter of the world-wide office. Currently Fierce is based in the US and Canada with creative talent from Japan to California. Online collaboration is an issue we face everyday and we are always looking for ways to do it smarter and more efficiently. As much as I am also a strong proponent for face-to-face time, I loved all the reasons HBR gave for why online collaboration is sometimes better.

Online collaboration, like most digital phenomena, is good at solving very specific kinds of problems: time problems, distance problems and communication problems. By solving time problems it creates the benefit of 24/7 production cycles; by solving distance problems it enables newly diverse teams; and by solving communication problems it lets us work together in ways that tap into a broader set of skills and capacities. When we use online collaboration to support tasks and projects that specifically leverage these distinctive benefits, we go beyond treating online collaboration as a band-aid for the problem of dispersed teams and use it to actually move our work and our organizations forward.

Distance, time zones, and the need for daily and sometimes hourly communication are things we address daily at FS+C. The ability to have the 24/7 production schedule is great–but it can be tricky. Our current online and project management tools help us in many important ways. HBR goes on to talk about the ability to build and gather diverse teams for specific projects with the help of online collaboration tools. This has been a huge asset for Fierce. I am a believer in building custom teams for our clients individual needs, and working online has allowed us to do this with great success.

The ability to convene diverse teams is another benefit of online collaboration – one that works hand-in-glove with 24/7 production if you’re leading a global team that works together across time zones. But the diversity enabled by online collaboration goes beyond the simple (but powerful) ability to source team members from around the world. Online collaboration also makes it easier to pull in people and resources from other organizations, and to tap into emergent forms of on-demand labor like Fiverr, oDesk and Elance.

This approach has greatest value to projects that require specific skills or expertise, and to tackling problems that require a fresh perspective. If you’re trying to reach a customer base that’s previously eluded you, or aiming to introduce a product that represents a major departure from your past offerings, you’ll benefit from a team that represents your target buyer or that can think about your business, message, or products in new ways. If you’re working on a deliverable or innovation that requires highly specialized skills – skills that don’t exist in your own company – the ability to diversify your product team will pay off with a better outcome or product. By tapping into a more diverse range of skills and expertise in a global labor marketplace, you’ll be able to get a better outcome by working virtually than you could hope to achieve by working within your own team or organization.

That means that instead of relying on your in-house designer, you can go to a designer with expertise in the particular kind of product you’re creating. Instead of turning to the same people you’ve worked with on your past five projects, you can bring together a team that will approach your problem with fresh eyes, and bring new ideas to the table. Instead of making do with the range of professional skills that are present in your own office or organization, you can tap into a global network of professionals and find the particular person you need for this project.

HBR goes on to talk about one additional benefit of online collaboration–allowing for different types of communication and work styles. This is so true. People approach problem solving, contributing ideas and thoughts, and brainstorming so differently. Providing different forums to accommodate for this has proven to be very helpful.

A final benefit of online collaboration is the ability to accommodate a wider range of communication and working styles. If you’re the kind of person who always speaks up in meetings (guilty as charged), the traditional workplace may work just great for you. But you’re missing out on the perspective and talents of people who like to mull on a problem before contributing, or that of people who communicate better visually or in writing than they do out loud.

Some great tools for online collaboration: Glip, Fiverr, oDesk, Elance, Skype, and Asana.

Read the entire article here: https://hbr.org/2015/04/collaborating-online-is-sometimes-better-than-face-to-face?utm_source=Socialflow&utm_medium=Tweet&utm_campaign=Socialflow