Finding New Ways to Work

Disruption is something we typically help our clients with in a proactive and innovative way. We’re advocates of keeping our heads up, scanning the landscape for disruptive forces that change what we do, what we make, and how new applications can improve the products and services we choose.  

Then change was thrust upon all of us, seemingly all at once.

Like you, we’re figuring out this work-from-home and social distancing dance while still balancing our personal concerns alongside a need to be productive. This is as much for our mental health as it is the fiscal health of any business.

We find ourselves in a learning and discovery mode – just in a different way than we planned.

Right now we’re figuring out how to be collaborative and connected when the secret to our success has always been hands-on collaboration in a space where we love to come to work. This can’t be replicated, but we need to find new ways to work – much in the same way we would advocate that our clients embrace new processes, which also lead to new ways to work.

So here’s one of the new things we’re learning right now – Microsoft Teams.

That’s probably not what you were expecting from a group that empowers digital transformation. How hard could it be? But this need to learn raised some basic questions that we grappled with: Why learn this platform when we have Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Monday.com, Slack, and a host of other digital project management and video conferencing tools that we’ve used and could employ? Especially in this time of disruption, why learn something else? Why not lean into what we’ve always done?

The answer is simple: because one of our teammates saw an opportunity to better serve and connect our team now that our standard way of working wasn’t possible.

This is a core tenet of where we start with anything we do for clients. We start with the user experience. And yes, we should do that for ourselves, too.

Being forced to do things differently is pushing everyone out of their comfort zone. Without this forced experiment, many of us would stick to what we know and do, unwilling to disrupt our long-held processes and rhythms. But while we’re all anxious to get back to some sense of normal, we’re also finding new efficiencies and questioning some of the ways we previously did our work. He are three additional things we’re learning right now:

  • We’re learning how to work remotely – and effectively. This extended WFH mandate is revealing for each member of our team what works well and what doesn’t, and we’re adjusting as we go. We’ll take those learnings so we can be more flexible and efficient going forward for a range of situations.

  • Our communication is improving. Distance is demanding we reach out with greater frequency to colleagues and clients alike, not just on project work, but also on personal well-being. Beyond typical email communication, we’re FaceTiming and connecting through quick video conference calls to see and connect more meaningfully. We know the better our communication becomes, the stronger our relationships will be, and that helps bring clarity to our collective work and outcomes.

  • We’re fine-tuning our approach to research. Stakeholder research has largely been driven by in-person interviews. However, we’re seeing firsthand the value in virtual interviews instead of conducting them face-to-face. People are more comfortable in their own environment, which creates better engagement and better data. It also can reduce ‘group think’ by avoiding group interviews in a single location.

On the surface, these seem like simple and obvious changes. But without this interruption, we don’t benefit from this learning. Sometimes we need to be forced to lean in, or else it is an opportunity missed. 

Asking “what if” questions and searching for new ways to do what we do – only better – are the seedlings of innovation and the foundation of a human-centered design approach. What if we try Teams? What if we do a daily FaceTime touch-base? What if we video interview stakeholders one at a time from the comfort of their home?  

Practice this kind of thinking and better ways to work will grow from it. This interruption in business as usual is giving us permission to twist how we think about our work. Take full advantage of the opportunities in front of you before you’re forced into more change against your will. Seemingly small changes now can pay much bigger dividends over time.

Stay safe and optimistic during these challenging times.

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