Tools of the Trade: Clever Collaborating, PEP-Style

Be honest. Does that whole “team player” thing sometimes get a bit – well, tiring?

We hear you. Sometimes a team effort involves a whole lot of the “effort” part and not quite enough of the “team”. We all know that collaboration is key to creating teams that work efficiently and deliver successful results. And let’s not forget that effective collaboration also minimises unnecessary distractions in the form of multiple emails and calls. With this in mind, we’ve recently undertaken a little collaboration experiment at PEPworldwide:nz. We’ve been using OneNote as a collaboration tool for a variety of projects we’ve worked on over the last few months. We wanted to see how OneNote in particular could improve communication within our team and potentially benefit our clients. So what have we learned in the process? Have a read of our tips below:

Begin by creating a structure for your collaboration.

What are the main projects you are working on together? Now clarify the main areas of these projects where team members’ roles connect. Develop a framework for your collaboration process – in our case, we developed one for our shared digital “notebook” – and make sure everyone involved agrees to this framework. It’s about collaboration, remember? You’ll be no better off unless buy-in is universal.

Use Tags (or their equivalent).

Tags are a great way to categorise and prioritise notes in OneNote. You can use them to return to important items, remind yourself about items you need to action or add filters to notes you’d like to share with others. There are many tags available in OneNote – just make sure you don’t overuse them. Getting carried away is, obviously, a little counter-productive and some of us are more susceptible than others (you know who you are).

Review as you go.

Your digital notebooks, sections and tags don’t have to remain locked into the initial framework you established. This is a work in progress: your working hours, projects or priorities may change. In our experiment, we initially scheduled a daily 15-minute meeting in our calendars to review what we were working on. This soon changed to one meeting a week – because we were sharing relevant information in our digital notebook, a daily meeting became unnecessary. So remember to review your structure, meeting schedule and agreements with all involved. If something isn’t working well or needs to evolve, change it!

Don’t over-complicate.

The whole point of this process is to minimise the number of emails you need to write and the number of calls you need to make. If you’re still frequently calling each other and writing notes as well, it ain’t working! Remind yourself why you’ve set up this process and then review it – as suggested above – accordingly.

The upshot of our collaboration experiment? It’s been highly successful, reducing interruptions, improving urgency on issues and creating more fruitful discussions. We’ll call that a win. Of course, OneNote is just one of many effective collaboration tools available (we try not to play favourites); whatever application you use, the tips we list above remain just as relevant. Our key message is this: don’t be afraid to kickstart those collaborative skills with a little experimentation. After all, who knows where a new approach could take your team?