The Goldilocks Method of Collaboration

Slack. Google Docs. SharePoint. Dropbox. Add in calls, texts, emails and any of the other dozens of possible collaboration tools available today, and even the most mindful can be fraught with anxiety. In reality, we – the world of business and technology – got what we asked for. No more playing phone tag with remote workers, a reduction in trite emails and always-updated documents living in the Cloud safe from the accidental deletion or a computer crash. However, while we have achieved a state of hyper-collaboration, an era of hyper-distractions has made a hypocrisy of our efforts. In trying to reduce the number of emails and voicemail’s we receive, we’ve inadvertently created a world where notifications are a non-stop whirlwind. Bing! New Slack message. Bing! Someone just added a new document to Dropbox. Bing! James in Boston wants to Skype. I’m dizzy – how about you?

Many of us can’t fight the instant gratification urge of opening up a notification right away (see: Marshmallow Test). Not only is this anxiety inducing, but it also begs the question of when are people getting real work done? Stephen Covey says, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” In a world of constant notifications, it can be challenging to do anything but what is urgent. Without disparaging any particular tool, the answer can be simple – practice The Goldilocks Method.

While this is far from a scientific method, we might be able to learn something from our fair-haired friend. Sticking to the Goldilocks theme, let’s explore three different possibilities (with one, of course, being “just right”):

  • Too Small: Going back to a world where only email and calling someone were the quickest and most effective ways to get work done. Of course, this scenario is unfeasible and certainly does not provide near the level of visibility and collaboration we need today. Having inboxes and voicemails spilling over isn’t going to let us get to our most important tasks, just as having notifications from multiple platforms do the same.
  • Too Big: The world we live in today. Perhaps you have anywhere from a half dozen to several dozen collaboration tools at your fingertips. With notifications coming in from every team, on every project, at any given moment, 24/7, we’re surrounded by constant distractions and “urgent” requests. As we’re working on innovating the next greatest product or service, our screens are lighting up like a Fourth of July display with notifications popping up then slowly fading as the next one appears. However, unlike a real fireworks show, all of these notifications are actually hampering our mood (it’s science). Not only are we bummed out, but we aren’t getting the work that really matters done. This isn’t how markets are won.
  • Just Right: The ideal, “just right” world. In this world, we take a step back and analyze all the tools available to us, or already on hand, and strategically determine which ones make the most sense to utilize for our organization. Do you need DropBox and SharePoint? Can you consolidate teams on Slack to ensure the appropriate people are being notified about the appropriate action items? Sometimes it can even be something as simple as turning off notifications for applications that don’t require instant response. Many of these apps trickily loop us in to setting up pop-up notifications as a default, but that can always be changed in settings later. Achieving Just Right status really comes down to communicating with your teams, and even the higher-ups when necessary, to establish a game plan when it comes to optimizing collaboration without distracting from valuable tasks.

Visibility is absolutely key to success, and the quicker we can access the right person or document at the right time, even better. However, reducing the craving for too much collaboration ensures we are focusing on completing tasks that are driving true business value. A good rule of thumb – if it takes you two minutes or less to respond to a request, go ahead and do it, but if it’s going to take any longer, add it to your to-do list. Let’s make 2018 the year of more work and less distractions!

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