The future of work is three-dimensional. And the good news is, it’s here now. It’s part of a new approach called cognitive collaboration that incorporates artificial intelligence with the right context with the right people to foster deeper human personalized connections.
The past couple of decades have seen collaborative work as an activity dependent on physical space and communication technology as its primary drivers. Meeting rooms were needed for multi-person conversations and conference calls. Email and web conference tools allowed for video and rapid dissemination of messages and documents. These were all good things. They helped move the collaboration process forward and with the advent of mobile technologies and home offices, they helped break many people out of the “office” box.
But now that reliable connectivity has been established, it’s time to examine what is not there: a missing piece to the collaborative puzzle, a missing dimension that is becoming more vital as a guarantor of timely and efficient productivity. I’m referring to the depth of interpersonal relationship that comes from insight.
The Problem: Lack of True Human Connectivity
When you see people sitting across from you in a meeting, whether in-person or on a video conference, what do you know about those people? Who are they? Where did they come from in terms of education and prior work experience? Who might you know in common? Insights into people allows meetings and projects to progress more quickly by shortening the getting to know you phase while maximizing the benefits of that same phase.
People have been trying to do this already, of course, using an “around-the-table” self-introduction session. But this is an example of a time-consuming exercise in information overload, which results in more people mentally dropping out rather than absorbing new information. It is also possible to Google a person or search for them on LinkedIn, but this has the dual disadvantages of information being out-of-date as well as the fact that almost every name is shared by many other people on the planet. Finding the right one is time consuming. Choosing the wrong one can be dangerous.
When connections like these remain incomplete, a great deal of project value also gets lost. A lack of human connection leads to a corresponding lack of ownership on the part of team members. As any great leader will tell you, a team needs an emotional, tribal connection to maintain momentum, inspiration, and cohesiveness. It is by no means a stretch to say that the same thing applies to meetings and projects.
The Future of Work: Cognitive Collaboration and Insights
Cognitive Collaboration helps deliver massively personalized, transformational experiences to the workplace. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to assist in a variety of meeting and project related activities, from effortless log-ons through to facial recognition that provides on-screen participants with virtual nametags and spoken commands to the meeting room itself.
One of the most important of these concepts is the ability to gain instant, just-in-time insight to better understand and relate to the people in the meeting. But first, let’s put that into context:
One of the benefits of web conferences, aside from time savings in travel, is the fact that the other participants are visible on screen. Having faces to look at rather than just voices to listen to or text messages to read, provides immeasurable benefit to the progress of a project.
Body language, eye contact, subtle facial gestures – these are all cues that help steer conversations forward. They represent the very essence of human connection and they help reinforce essential components like trust and synergy. But only very recently has the technology become available enough and affordable enough for companies to take this on. High-quality video conferencing in this way promises to vastly improve the meeting and collaboration process.
Having everyone so clearly visible on screen provides a perfect opportunity to close the loop by adding insights that describe each person and add context.
Why Insights are Vital to Team/Project Success
Ours is an age in which people are more physically connected than ever, thanks to wireless technologies and the internet, but at the same people are also feeling less emotionally connected.
Innovation is the opposite, people need to cross-pollinate their ideas, feel connected and get to know each other on a more human level versus a superficial level. There needs to be a third dimension in the relationship.
There are many who have already seen the value of insight and have physically built it into their environments. Steve Jobs always ensured that his workspaces at Apple provided ample opportunity for people to meet and mingle on their way to the cafeteria. There were power outlets everywhere, and the corporate culture allowed people to take their laptops with them and talk to others on company time.
Many other organizations have followed suit and not just leading-edge high-tech startups. They have recognized that the vital ingredient in fostering a productive and collaborative workplace is depth: people need depth in their interactions and their relationships.
Now, the technology exists that allows the two worlds of web conferencing and deep human interaction to blend effortlessly through insights brought forth via Cognitive Collaboration. This, I believe, will be the next wave of in corporate productivity and innovation made possible by a truly three-dimensional workspace.
By Aruna Ravichandran
Published with permission from blogs.cisco.com.