In a recent HBR article, Brad Power makes the point that face-time is still crucial in our increasingly disparate marketplace. He argues that although we don’t always work in the same place, at the same time, with the same people, making a habit of “face-to-face” work can really pay off.
With information accessible from everywhere, new co-working centres opening every day, and the near-constant publishing of articles touting the benefits of social business, the idea of collaboration is taking hold. There is, however, another disturbing trend starting to develop. With the proliferation of so-called “social tools” we have ended up substituting the truly “social” experience for a kind of pseudo-social virtual interaction.
All collaboration is great, but virtual collaboration seems to be missing something. There’s no room for nuance, or body-language, or intimacy, leaving virtual collaboration as a sort of hollow shell. When we can fill that shell with face-to-face time, even just a little, we strengthen the core of that collaboration. We should keep talking in the physical metaphor here because we can literally fill a room with opportunities to collaborate just by changing a few things about the room itself.
Imagine a place where you can bring the team – a place dedicated to team-building, ideation, and problem-solving – to work together in person. In comes the Collaboration Station – a real physical space which meets the needs of those collaborators. These people work together all the time, but if that work is only ever virtual, they may be seeing less-than-stellar collaboration results. Having a physical space dedicated to collaboration and innovation means everyone knows where to go to find help, and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do when they get there.
A Collaboration Station could be filled with inspiring material to generate the best ideas. It could promote collaboration by it’s very design, as opposed to promoting hierarchies. You could have project and idea headquarters and the facility could become a permanent idea incubation and innovation centre for the company. Plus, building routine into collaboration helps the team adapt to the culture inside your Collaboration Station and they become better team players, more creative thinkers, and more loyal employees. Not bad for a side effect.