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The Power of Human Collaboration

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As the office environment continues to evolve, one question that we will inevitably ask is "How much time do I really need to spend here?" With all of the accessible-anywhere web-connected technologies that we are constantly adopting, it would seem like physically spending time at the office is becoming less and less necessary. These technologies could potentially bridge the gap between colleagues working from remote locations, effectively making the office obsolete.
In the past, I've argued that even with the advantages brought by new technology, the office will continue to be just as important as the center of business life. Although it may be used less by individual employees, I see the office persisting as the collaborative hub of the enterprise. Here at M5, our office is arranged with a very open floor plan that helps induce a cooperative and convivial atmosphere. No one has offices; instead we all work together out on the floor. The intern (that's me) sits across the row from our CEO, Dan Hoffman.

Mark Suster, on his blog Both Sides of the Table, recently wrote a great post backing up my view, which I've posted an excerpt of below. Suster talks about the natural human connectedness that "no amount of technology can replace" - the interactions that breed a true company culture and vision. He makes the best case for the survival of the office that I've ever read; there is a magic in human connections that technology can never replace. Check it out, or read the full post

The Power of “In Person” – Why Distributed Teams are Less Effective

In the era of Skype, web conferencing tools and collaboration software conventional wisdom says that distributed startup teams can be just as effective as those that are in person.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Or more precisely the people espousing the benefits of distributed startups teams are often distributed and therefore self rationalizing it.  Been there.

The reality is that a certain magic that happens when you’re in person is critical in a startup. You attend five customer meetings together over a two-week period and after each meeting you replay the results in the office about what it meant. The CEO weighs in with his perspectives, the head of product management disputes his conclusions and the marketing VP has a different take.

We spend hours of seemingly “wasted” time just in these informal chats simply shooting the shit. With all the recent obsessions about “pivots” most people don’t realize that the more powerful pivots are the unnoticeable ones we make every day through these exchanges. The conversations bleed into the sales messages the next time, they wend their way into software designs and form the plan of attack against competition.

And it doesn’t stop there. The best companies are built on common beliefs and culture – a common sense of purpose. Those cultural normals are established through human connections: the night we all stayed late to get that release out the door, the day we celebrated our funding round or the day we landed our first big account. The culture is forged through office parties, poker, paintball or film nights. And slowly, over the years, those crazy stories about Danny passed out in the company bathroom after the Summer party get replaced by weddings, births and family picnics. We become more than dispassionate colleagues – we’ve been in the trenches together and survived.

I’ve seen it go full cycle. There is a core that exists in human connectedness that no amount of technology can replace. Just watch companies that grow rapidly in even a single physical address and start to span multiple floors and you’ll know what I mean. The culture starts to change and companies need to work harder to keep up the physical connections – even within the same building.

via The Power of “In Person” – Why Distributed Teams are Less Effective | Both Sides of the Table. Posted by Mark Suster.