Over the last decade, the way teams work has changed radically. A Harvard Business study reports that there is a 50% increase in the collaboration between managers and employees today. Moreover, after the disruption caused by the pandemic, most teams now operate remotely and as a result, team members are spread apart. In these changed times, the traditional model of teamwork has stopped being effective.
Research showed that when team members were forced to work remotely due to Covid-19, collaboration took the biggest hit. Organizations were quick to spot it and started initiatives like video conferencing, weekly video meetings and so on. While these helped to bridge the gap to a large extent, the lack of a collaborative interaction was acutely felt. That’s when the power of visual collaboration started to gain prominence.
Studies show that about 65% of people are visual learners. They find it easier to communicate through visuals than through speech. To know how integrated visual communication is in our daily lives, think of how often you use gestures, images or diagrams to convey your point to others. Visual collaboration in organizations can take different forms, from brainstorming to project planning. In this article, we will be discussing them.
4 Ways Visual Collaboration Empowers Teams
Visual collaboration helps people ideate more freely. When people can illustrate their ideas rather than simply voice them, it leverages their creativity. Moreover, it provides a common language for the teams to connect and helps to bring them to a common ground.
Four ways in which collaboration can strengthen teamwork are:
Brainstorming: Cross-departmental brainstorming is a fundamental activity for ideation, especially for companies like a UI UX design agency or digital marketing firm. Brainstorming involves all members of the team coming together and discussing problem statements with an aim to generate maximum ideas as possible.
In an office atmosphere, during brainstorming people may draw on whiteboards, use sticky notes or sketch on notepads to ideate openly. The same concept can be translated during online brainstorming sessions too using virtual collaboration tools like digital whiteboards or freehand drawing software. These tools level up the virtual brainstorming sessions by implementing active participation, collaboration and ideation.
Sprint planning: Today most teams adopt an agile methodology of working. In that, sprint planning is an essential part done in collaboration with the entire team. Visual collaboration helps to make sprint planning more effective. Using scrum boards, it becomes easy to give the team a clear vision of the benchmark for the sprint and the workflows. This goes a long way in boosting the team’s productivity and enhancing the sprint results and future sprints.
Project planning: Project planning is a laborious and complicated task. It is critical for successful project execution and since many dependencies arise in the process, having a clear picture helps to avoid confusion. Using visuals to communicate the planning process, including the dependencies, the role of individuals, their contribution to the end result and the scope of the project helps to convey information better and aid in effective planning.
Clear visualization helps the project team understand the importance of their project and take more accountability for their role. Knowing how their contributions shape the overall project motivates them to take ownership and work responsibly. It also gives them more clarity on what to do and whom to approach whenever they face a roadblock.
Meetings and workshops: Ever since remote work became a norm, virtual meetings and workshops have become common. Though organized with good intentions by a company, it becomes difficult to hold the attention of everyone in the meeting given the different atmospheres they are working in. One way to get everyone to engage and involve in these virtual activities is by using digital whiteboards or other visualization tools that will increase attention and understanding.
Benefits of Visual Collaboration for Organizations
Visual collaboration is reimagining teamwork in the post-pandemic work culture. Teams thrive when they work together and visual tools encourage productivity. Some of the best benefits of using visual collaboration are:
Build effective communication: Verbal communication has a high risk of information getting mistranslated or lost. When conveying important matters such as big ideas or project plans, the slightest mistake can jeopardize the entire execution. Therefore, communicating effectively becomes important to convey and execute ideas. Visual collaboration enhances communication by using interactive means which improves the efficiency of sharing.
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Get a holistic picture: Visual collaboration makes it easy to get a holistic view of things. Be it a project plan, a sprint run or a company strategy, representing them visually helps everyone see the big picture and how things add up to it. Thus a strong bond can be created within the organization by making everyone feel like an important part of the whole.
Improve employee engagement: As remote work became prominent, it was noticed that many employees feel dissatisfied at work due to a lack of employee engagement programs. With the team dispersed at different locations, some employees started raising concerns about feeling ignored. Employee engagement is essential to building a strong company with maximum productivity and visual collaboration can greatly enhance it. Video conferences and online visual tools are two commonly used techniques by organizations to achieve this.
Speed up decision making: In the remote workplace, decision-making is a time-consuming process, especially in large organizations. The cycle of getting feedback and implementing changes can go on for long, taking up a lot of time. Visual collaboration can speed up the process by making it possible to do real-time changes through collaborative efforts.
How to Create a Visual Collaboration Culture
By now, you must be convinced about the merits of visual collaboration in an organization. Creating a culture where visual interactions are fostered is essential in today’s times. However, it requires some consistent efforts. Get started by incorporating these things:
- Start from the top: Let the leaders in your organization lead by example. Employees warm up to new ideas easily when they see leaders executing them.
- Be open to adapt: When the team starts using visual collaboration tools, you may find that some features need to be modified, added or removed. For sustained use of the tools, it is critical to get feedback from the employees and adapt as needed.
- Create a space for all: There may be all types of people in an organization – from introverts to extroverts. Balance the participation of each of them to make the collaborative efforts inclusive and exciting for all.
- Don’t shy away from experiments: Different tools may work for different teams. Be open to experimentation and finding what works best for your team. For example, if collaborating through sticky notes doesn’t work for you, try whiteboards. There is no right or wrong.
- Acknowledge and appreciate: Initially, not everyone may be excited about participating. But through constant acknowledgement and appreciation, it is possible to build a culture where everyone becomes involved gradually.
From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, all successful leaders vouch for the power of collaboration. As times change, the mode of collaboration must, as well. Today, visual collaboration is essential for the smooth functioning of organizations. From ideation to project planning and workshops, visual interaction tools are proving to be constructive. They provide various benefits including better communication, faster decision making and improved employee experience.