The Future of Productivity: Teamwork and Collaboration

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I recently wrote about the ways AI and machine learning will impact productivity. For this article, I’m focusing on teamwork and collaboration. I reached out to founders, productivity experts and futurists who work in this space every day to ask what their predictions are for the next five and 10 years. Their answers were enlightening.

The future isn’t just coming for personal productivity; experts also believe that advances in technology will strongly affect teams and organizations. From productivity platforms that seamlessly integrate the tools we depend on, to new ways to collaborate in an ever-more diverse and distributed workforce, here’s how the future will affect team productivity.

Embrace the power of teams.

When I asked Dom Price, the head of R&D at Atlassian, he said, “The future of productivity is all about unleashing the potential of your teams.” According to him, “90 percent of organizations claim to be tackling issues so complex they need teams to solve them.” This doesn’t bode well for organizations in which collaboration has not become a priority.

Related: How Team Review Meetings Can Increase Collaboration

Price further stated that, “Diversity, distribution, timezones, cultural differences and hierarchical reporting lines all make teamwork hard. We all need to unlearn some old ways of working, and embrace diversity, inclusion and better collaboration to drive team productivity in this new era of work.” I think that as teams become more distributed in the modern workforce, wether its because of politics or the war for talent, collaboration is the number one factor that companies need to implement.

It started with email.

Bret Taylor, former CTO of Facebook, inventor of the “Like” button and co-founder of productivity suite Quip, sees a solution to this challenge in the way communication has changed to become less formal in recent years. He believes that “connected, mobile and social — work is about communication. It’s about people sharing work, ideas and opinions.”

Like many of the experts I spoke to, Taylor sees the future in the form of modern productivity suites that are no longer just “designed to augment email.” “Combining content and communication into a single, seamless experience — word processing, spreadsheets, chat, checklists, live editing and much more. Everything will happen in one place, vastly reducing the need for teams to send long email threads with clunky attachments, or waste time in endless meetings.”

Related: 5 Ways CEOs Can Empower Teams to Develop Collaborative Workplaces

Visual communication moves up.

Others see the solution to this challenge in the form of even more casual communication techniques. Wendy Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith, sees the future in video and screencasting.

“As younger workers progress higher in their careers, they are setting the standard for communication in a workplace and they are leading with a preference for visual communication.”

She believes that “from corporate training to marketing, video will become ingrained in the fabric of how companies operate, both internally and externally.”

“Businesses both small and large are using this technique to demonstrate processes, improve communication efficiency and effectiveness, increase productivity and eliminate unnecessary meetings,” she adds. 

Related: Great Leaders Connect With Employees, Foster Collaboration and Embrace Continuous Change

Informal communication is on the rise.

Project management and productivity writer for Gartner and Capterra, Rachel Burger, agrees. “Many workers are already used to collaboration tools like Slack and its alternatives. To them, particularly millennial workers, formal project management software, like Microsoft Project or VersionOne, seem cumbersome and clunky. The millennial workforce simply doesn’t want to work with these tools.”

Like Hamilton and Taylor, she sees informal communication replacing traditional project management tools in the workplace. However, she cautions that “collaboration software can never fully replace project management.” Citing a Gartner report, she states, “Adopting these systems will require strong change management skills from the lead project manager. In the world of productivity, the transition may lead to an initial disorganization until common collaboration tools can create more effective tracking and filtering systems per project.”

Related: Want Your Team to Collaborate More? The Answer Is Surprisingly Simple.

Teams are embracing technologies.

I tend to agree. While I don’t believe that visual communication will ever replace all other forms of communication, I do see a strong trend towards visual work as a faster way to productivity. It also allows remote teams to feel more like a part of the organization. Think about how VR could revolutionize the way we work — putting distributed teams in the same virtual room for meetings.

For now though, the future of team collaboration will definitely be mobile, facilitated almost entirely by the smartphone in the near future. In 10 years’ time though, I see a future that will include augmented processes and machine learning. Information being sent to you from your environment, whether it’s from Alexa in the corner of your living room or a notification sent to your phone via geo-tracking giving information about a person you’re meeting as you arrive. There is no doubt that collaboration will continue to evolve as new technologies become available. Just look how the iPhone changed communication

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