Collaboration and time: collaborate slow and fast

Timing and rythm deeply impact collaboration, and in particular collective intelligence and hence effectiveness. ALC makes it possible to control and steer time.

The pitfalls of fast collaboration

When we collaborate, both our genes and culture push us to privilege immediacy and quick interaction.

We prioritise input from extroverts and neglect inputs from introverts, who think harder and longer before speaking.

We think fast rather than slow. Intuition primes over judgement. We privilege spontaneity over calm structured thinking. Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking fast and slow” explored the complex trade-offs between slow and fast thinking. When it comes to acting, and hence thinking, collaboratively, the same problems appear, even more intensely; different people, depending on factors such as their competencies, personality and / or their social status in the group, think and contribute at different speeds, with the faster ones having a social advantage over others, de facto excluding or dominating the introverts and calm thinkers.

Collaborative exchange is often too fast to pause and take a step back. Sometimes we pay the heavy price for this lack of slow collaboration, by missing opportunities or even making mistakes, which we deeply regret afterwards.

But if, inversely, processes take forever, although the problems at hand are straightforward, we can also waste substantial time and energy. So, finding the right balance is important. But this balance requires collective discipline which may be challenging to implement without appropriate tools that guide the process.

Also, the right balance is often the result of experience… which lives and dies with the people who hold it. Without tools it is difficult to transfer. Fast and slow collaboration complement each other… when they are well combined. A bad mix makes both less effective.

Mixing slow & fast collaboration

Therefore, to progress our current collaboration practices, we need to effectively combine the best of fast and slow collaboration.

SymFlos will provide the necessary structure and rigor to proceed slowly when needed, and fast when possible. Appropriate symFlo templates will make it possible to create patterns that reflect experience of how much time to allocate when and where, which phases require slow thinking and which ones need spontaneity. By making time an explicit feature of symFlos, it becomes possible to vary the rhythms within symFlos.

Also, by providing well-adapted and pre-configured symFlo templates it becomes possible to combine fast synchronous interaction – such as face-to-face meetings or chat – with asynchronous slowly paced interactions, where participants can progress at different speeds, depending on their capabilities, their motivation and / or their availability.

By including invitation subSymFlos at the beginning and closure subSymFlos at the end, participants will know when a symFlo starts and ends, and can commit to contribute at the pace that is required by the constraints imposed on the symFlo.

Use case: studying at different paces

Education – be it in school, academia or in professional training – is a typical example of collaboration flows between teachers and students. As soon as there are several students, a recurrent problem appears: different students do progress at different paces through the learning process – some need may need several days and perhaps even weeks to understand the theory and / or to master the practice; others get going in minutes to hours. Go too fast and students get first lost, then frustrated and finally give up. Go too slowly and students get first bored, then lose motivation and finally disconnect. This applies also to consulting and design where the understanding of a strategy and / or the subsequent transformation often implies an education process.

A typical education process including ALC, could combine fast and slow collaboration:

  • Share readings and explanations asynchronously upfront.
  • Provide individual coaching through “deep Q&A” symFlos to help overcome understanding problems.
  • Once everybody has reached a sufficient level of understanding, organise a face-to-face event, where students can run small practice cases, discuss challenging issues and learn to become “teachers” of what they have learned (e.g., “train the trainers”).
  • Evaluate progress of competence step-by-step throughout the symFlo to avoid losing students on the way