Thursday, July 12, 2012

Process Is Killing Your Productivity? latershare can help

Lisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink, New York, writes in her article "5 Ways Process Is Killing Your Productivity" on (an except from her Book "Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution") about the productivity losses in companies that are caused by the overuse of - in the beginning well-intentioned - processes: Managers spend 30 to 60 percent of their time in coordination meetings. "No wonder people feel like they can never get any real work done."

Of course communication in relevant meetings will always belong to the key functions of management. But not all sort of meetings are necessary. Sometimes the sequential communication in meetings can lead to worse results than using other forms of communication.

Point 3 in her list:
  • Overdependence on meetings: “Collaborative” and “inclusive” are corporate buzzwords, but productive teamwork does not require meetings for every single action or decision. People become overwhelmed and ineffective when they are always stuck in meetings. This signals that politics have taken precedence over productivity.
This somehow reminds of this older "hold a meeting" graphic. We created latershare to provide a tool to avoid certain meetings and make the collected input of people available simultaneously for all group members. To save time and improve team efficiency.

Point 5 in her list:
  • Management acts as judge, not jury: If the purpose of a meeting is to think, create, or build, management has to stop tearing people down when they propose new ideas or question the status quo. This signals a lack of perspective and openness.
Meetings can be great for brainstormings since people can build ideas on input of other people. With the influences of hierarchy, rivalry, shyness and time limitation, these brainstorming and creation processes can lead to suboptimal outcomes. So why not take advantage of latershare to collect the input and make it available to the group? Optionally, based on the results, a meeting can still be called, which most likely will be shorter and will lead to better results.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Possible Use Case: Baby Name Choice - Collection of Thoughts and Feelings

Something internal: There was a break in the latershare blog posting series that had a great reason: The birth of my second child, Jakob. The last two month I have enjoyed the intense time with my family.

By the way, previous to birth I noticed another possible use case for latershare:

Review of proposed names for your child.

With a latershare request per proposal. One wants to make undisturbed thoughts on the suitability of these names and share thoughts with your partner - but she also wants to make undisturbed thoughts.
As soon as the opinions are on the same table, this is a good basis for sensible conversation about them. And who wants to can also incorporate others.

We have yet used the quasi latershare principle on paper. But it is also possible to use this online tool.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Groupthink and the desire for harmony in decision-making groups

Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale, started research on the phenomenon called groupthink - already in 1972. Since groupthink is still "alive and kicking" we devote it a blog post.
  • "Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.
  • The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science, social psychology, management, organizational theory, and information technology."

According to Janis, there are ways of preventing groupthink:
    • "Leaders should assign each member the role of “critical evaluator”. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts.
    • Higher-ups should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group.
    • The organization should set up several independent groups, working on the same problem.
    • All effective alternatives should be examined.
    • Each member should discuss the group's ideas with trusted people outside of the group.
    • The group should invite outside experts into meetings. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts.
    • At least one group member should be assigned the role of Devil's advocate. This should be a different person for each meeting."
    Nowadays the latershare communication tool can help to avoid groupthink and to deal with conformity and compliance pressures. It takes the hassle out of the communication situation. It should be safe for everyone, including introverts, to express themselves. Of course the opinions expressed in the replies of a latershare round should be handled with respect.

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Crowds estimate better than the individual - as long as their members trust themselves or the best

    Andrew J King, Lawrence Cheng, Sandra D Starke and Julia P Myatt of the Structure and Motion Laboratory / Royal Veterinary College, University of London, did some interesting research regarding swarm intelligence. Here is the abstract of their publication "Is the true 'wisdom of the crowd' to copy successful individuals?":
    • "Diversity of expertise at an individual level can increase intelligence at a collective level-a type of swarm intelligence (SI) popularly known as the 'wisdom of the crowd'. However, this requires independent estimates (rare in the real world owing to the availability of public information) and contradicts people's bias for copying successful individuals. 
    • To explain these inconsistencies, 429 people took part in a 'guess the number of sweets' exercise. Guesses made with no public information were diverse, resulting in highly accurate SI. Individuals with access to the previous guess, mean guess or a randomly chosen guess, tended to over-estimate the number of sweets and this undermined SI. 
    • However, when people were provided with the current best guess, this prevented very large (inaccurate) guesses, resulting in convergence of guesses towards the true value and accurate SI across a range of group sizes. 
    • Thus, contrary to previous work, we show that social influence need not undermine SI, especially where individual decisions are made sequentially and then aggregated.
    • Furthermore, we offer an explanation for why people have a bias to recruit and follow experts in team settings: copying successful individuals can enable accuracy at both the individual and group level, even at small group sizes."

    Here a link to a related article (in german): "Gemeinsam sind wir schlauer"

    latershare is a tool to efficiently collect individual input (and aggregate it) while social influence is excluded. In situations where social influence can not be excluded, it is best to follow experts - not hierarchy.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Technologies for Empowered Employees

    CMSWire wrote an interesting article about the "Top 16 Technologies for Empowered Employees" that were featured by forrester and placed in their famous hype cycle.

    latershare is too young ans mall yet to be listed there, but it can play a role as a tool in five of these listed technology fields:
    • Business collaboration: With latershare you can solve certain business communication situations better than by sequential communication.
    • File (synching and) sharing - You can attach files to latershare requests and share them with your participants group.
    • Infrastructure-as-a-service - latershare runs as a web service, so you can use it without installing it on your own server.
    • Innovation management/ideation platforms - Innovation / idea development is one of more than a dozen possible use cases for latershare communication.
    • Productivity - Improving productivity by saving time & costs, securing originality & improving fairness is core to latershare.
    All these technologies are on the rise, according to Forrester:

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    The first round of press coverage

    The most relevant german startup sites and other publications wrote good articles about latershare:


    Monday, November 7, 2011

    ZEITmagazin: The end of e-mail

    In the current ZEITmagazin the article "Das Ende von @was" ("The end of something") (german; online: predicts the end of e-mail: "The e-mail just now suffers the same fate as the letter: it is abolished."

    Definitely interesting are some statistics:
    "According to a study by U.S. market researcher ComScore the e-mail use in the U.S. has decreased by eight percent in 2010. In the group of 12- to 17-year-olds the exodus of 49 percent was strongest, but even the 45- to 54-year-olds emailed twelve percent less."
    In times of real-time communication (e.g. voice chats or video conferences), communication in social networks and other online tools e-mail is not needed as much as before.

    Representing the office use Atos CEO Thierry Breton is cited: "Our managers spend 5-20 hours per week reading and writing e-mails." E-mail is endangered and should not be considered the "best way to work and exchange".

    We think that also latershare will help to reduce the number of unnecessary e-mails. For certain communication situations latershares are simply better suited. We are pleased that a prestigious publication like DIE ZEIT creates awareness for change - away from e-mail, to new forms of communication.

    Update: More on Atos Email Banning on Business Insider