Category: Innovation

Business model innovation, open innovation and co-creation practices and case studies

Business model innovationInnovationMarketing 3.0Tourism trends

Connected Museums and connected learning

The presentation below was originally given as a keynote in Taiwan to the Chinese Association of Museums.

Our belief is that the technology like Conducttr can create “intelligent interpretation” – personalized connected experiences that see the museum as part of a deeper ecosystem that includes informal and formal learning.

In the diagram presented here, a cloud-based intelligence understands the learner’s current interest and tailors physical and digital environments to suit.

Note that a common problem for major museums is traffic flow. That is, most visitors want to see the museum’s top attraction. Using Conducttr connected to traffic sensors, guides and screens can be adapted and tweaks to direct visitors to less busy parts of the museum.

 

This blogpost is from  http://www.tstoryteller.com/blog

Culture changeInnovative cultureCollaborative cultureOpen innovationCo-creation

Shared decisions feel better

 “The social networks potential to turn every citizen into an agent for the improvement of the community is huge” says Alfons Cornella –Spanish Innovation leader- in his book “The solution starts by CO”.

During the last few years it has become fashionable that destinations outsource part of their promotion activities to visitors and local community members. In what could be called co-creation processes, many destination management and promotion bodies have decided to celebrate public elections to select their logos and slogans. In this election there is first a period to receive proposals, and at the end of this period the public election takes place.

At first it may sound very open and transparent. So long as both the logo and the slogan are to become key elements of the destination image, it is good that everybody can express their opinion about it. However, this system may entail some risks. Those who vote probably choose their vote according to purely esthetic criteria, without considering aspects related with the value promise of the destination, or its desired positioning, the targets, etc. As a result of these processes there have been some bad experiences.

The main issue is that the chosen logo and/or slogan should be in accordance with the destination strategy, which is usually defined in a Strategy Plan according to the destination leaders’ criteria. It is therefore necessary to introduce a filtering phase either before or after the public election, to discard all those logos and slogans that do not match with the destination strategy.

In Spain there has been mainly one experience of this kind, in the Basque Country, driven by the Bilbao City Council and the Bizkaia Province Government. These two institutions had been collaborating for a long time, up to the point that they shared a stand in the FITUR Tourism Fair under the brand BI2. In this way, they wanted to leverage the power of the Bilbao brand to favor also the rest of the Province, so long as the Bizkaia brand is far behind in terms of awareness, despite the worthy resources it has. Bilbao, in turn, has experienced a transformation thanks to the Guggenheim effect and the public-private collaboration, which has led to a sustained visitors’ growth in the city.

Deepening in this collaboration line, they have launched a contest to select their new common logo and slogan. In this case, they opened a public contest for professionals under a detailed briefing. As a result of this idea contest, they received up to 84 proposals from 7 different countries. They were all exposed to the public, though the first selection process was carried out by a commission of experts to present 10 final proposals to be voted for by the public. To facilitate participation, they have installed 6 voting points to let locals vote for their favourite choice.

However, the citizens’ votes will count for only 20% of the final decision. The rest will be responsibility of the experts committee led by Garry White, President of the European Cities Marketing Association.

What do you thing about letting the locals vote for strategic decisions of high symbolic value?

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/las-decisiones-compartidas-saben-mejor/

Business model innovationCollaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureInnovationTourism trends

Dinner at my home? It’s 30 Euros

What is a SMART destination? These may be defined in many ways. They are destinations that think and advance strategically, improving competitiveness and searching positioning through effectiveness. Becoming a SMART is no more than a strategy to enhance the destination value by leveraging both the cultural and natural heritage, developing innovative resources, improving the efficiency in the production processes and the distribution, which finally propels the sustainable development. This transformation generates positive effects in all sub-sectors such as energy, health services, security, culture, etc. thanks to the cross-destination impact of the tourism activity.

The key concepts that set SMART destinations apart from conventional ones are accessibility, innovation, technology and sustainability. Among these concepts, new technologies are the ones which are more likely to be perceived by the tourist, namely mobile applications, augmented reality and everything related to data smart management.

There are 4 key concepts upon which Smart destinations are developed:

  • Technology/Big Data
    • Innovation
    • Sustainability: social, economic, cultural and environmental
    • Accessibility

The development of the SMART concept in destinations consists mainly in working to attain a higher profitability in the daily exploitation of the resources. This is to be achieved by engaging both the local community and the tourists in order to enhance interaction between them. There are already some examples of Smart destinations, such as El Hierro island in the Canary Archipelago. Some of its main achievements are the energetic self-sufficiency and the pollution reduction, which have been achieved through actions such as:

  • Waste converted into energy
  • Environment camouflage of telecom and energy facilities and equipment (solar panels, antenna, etc.) within the landscape.
  • Reduction of the visual impact in the buildings and facilities construction, by using local volcanic stone instead of bricks.
  • It has gained awareness and branding by sharing and marketing its experiences in the social networks.

Other actions carried out in SMART destinations encompass:

  • Mobile Applications
  • Tourism Intelligence System, including data transportation and information Smart management, which altogether turn the destination into a SMART destination.
  • Smart office; a common working place where to unify processes which produces a work synergy and allows sense and common methodology guidelines in the transformation towards an intelligent city.
  • Beaches with free wifi

It is important to mention Singapore Smart City, which is on the way to become the first SMART nation worldwide. The country is working on its Master Plan for the next 10 years, which will be focused on the development of smart communities propelled by integration and innovation.

This blogpost is based on http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/smart-destinations/

Business model innovationCollaborative business modelsInnovationTourism trends

Guides that are not guides

As has happened with the accommodation business, namely with Airbnb, the collaborative platform business model is also developing in the tourist guides business. I have personally experienced one of these platform’s services in the city of Prague.

Thanks to these platforms it is no longer strange that the tourists are offered free guided tours in great urban destinations, without any trick. In my case, I used the services of Sandeman’s New Europe, which is already present in 18 cities. At the beginning of the tour, the guide explained that his income comes from tips, and so it was not mandatory to pay even 1 Euro.

The tour lasted more than 3 hours and it was really entertaining, with good quality content. The guide was brilliant and received quite a lot of tips. But, attracted by the quality of this Guided tour, the day after I did another one, but paying. This business works actually like a freemium model.  In fact, there are many more businesses offering free guided tours in Prague. And they have their rivalry moves, like guerrilla marketing actions, competing for the best locations, etc.

But this new fashion not only takes place in the large cities. The Greeters movement is emerging also in smaller cities, like Bilbao. The first company operating this business model in Bilbao is actually called Bilbao Greeters, and is part of the international network Global Greeters Network. The Greeters are locals offering guided tours with the authenticity of a local resident’s knowledge and perspective, who knows the traditions, habits and secrets beyond the usual tourist information available. In the Basque Country the Tourist Guides are not regulated, and so there cannot be any conflict in this case. Unlike in the previous case of “New Europe”, the Greeters are not professional guides and do not accept tips.  However, to make a booking you need to be registered as partner, which costs 12€ per year.

Finally, there are many online platforms allowing people to offer their tourist services worldwide. Besides platforms such as Vayable, Viator or Isango, marketing all kind of experiences –from guided tours to cooking lessons-, there are many others offering guided visits by the destination’s residents.

Local Guiding is a platform oriented to “changing the way people travel, experiencing the local life as it is, not like the conventional tourism agencies pretend it to be”. They are already offering guided tours in more than 20 Spanish destinations.

Tours by locals are the veterans in this sector, as they have been operating since 2008 from their headquarters in Vancouver. They nowadays offer guided tours in many countries worldwide.

Like a local is the concept developed through a mobile application. Destination residents contribute to editing the local guide with recommendations, advice, routes, etc. and obtain revenue from the application’s management firm.

Finally, there is the Spanish portal called Ciceroner , promising to offer “unique and personal experiences, the only ones that can be really different and memorable”. It is still in Beta development phase, but it already offers a considerable amount of products in many destinations. It gives the option to gift the guided tours just like Smartbox and many others, but promising a superior experiential value.

As we can see, it is an emergent business model, with many suppliers and intermediaries operating in the market. However, this new fashion business model arouses many questions:

  • Is it just a fashion or a new reality?
  • Are these services for specific segments or for all types of visitors?
  • Is it necessary to further regulate this type of businesses to ensure a fair competition with the traditional models, or should they be given free regin instead?
  • Are these new models going to operate in urban destinations only, or they are likely to operate in beach destinations traditionally dominated by tour-operators?
  • Do these business models affect somehow the destinations’ image? Should the DMOs do something to get some profit from it or to manage it for branding purposes?

I invite you to reflect upon these questions, and encourage you to give your opinion

This blogpost is from http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/guias-que-no-son-guias/

Business trendsEnvironmental sustainabilityInnovationIntelligenceIntelligence methods

Smart destinations

What is a SMART destination? These may be defined in many ways. They are destinations that think and advance strategically, improving competitiveness and searching positioning through effectiveness. Becoming a SMART is no more than a strategy to enhance the destination value by leveraging both the cultural and natural heritage, developing innovative resources, improving the efficiency in the production processes and the distribution, which finally propels the sustainable development. This transformation generates positive effects in all sub-sectors such as energy, health services, security, culture, etc. thanks to the cross-destination impact of the tourism activity.

The key concepts that set SMART destinations apart from conventional ones are accessibility, innovation, technology and sustainability. Among these concepts, new technologies are the ones which are more likely to be perceived by the tourist, namely mobile applications, augmented reality and everything related to data smart management.

There are 4 key concepts upon which Smart destinations are developed:

-Technology/Big Data
-Innovation
-Sustainability: social, economic, cultural and environmental
-Accessibility

The development of the SMART concept in destinations consists mainly in working to attain a higher profitability in the daily exploitation of the resources. This is to be achieved by engaging both the local community and the tourists in order to enhance interaction between them. There are already some examples of Smart destinations, such as El Hierro island in the Canary Archipelago. Some of its main achievements are the energetic self-sufficiency and the pollution reduction, which have been achieved through actions such as:

  • Waste converted into energy
  • Environment camouflage of telecom and energy facilities and equipment (solar panels, antenna, etc.) within the landscape.
  • Reduction of the visual impact in the buildings and facilities construction, by using local volcanic stone instead of bricks.
  • It has gained awareness and branding by sharing and marketing its experiences in the social networks.

Other actions carried out in SMART destinations encompass:

  • Mobile Applications
  • Tourism Intelligence System, including data transportation and information Smart management, which altogether turn the destination into a SMART destination.
  • Smart office; a common working place where to unify processes which produces a work synergy and allows sense and common methodology guidelines in the transformation towards an intelligent city.
  • Beaches with free wifi

It is important to mention Singapore Smart City, which is on the way to become the first SMART nation worldwide. The country is working on its Master Plan for the next 10 years, which will be focused on the development of smart communities propelled by integration and innovation.

This blogpost is based on http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/smart-destinations/

Business model innovationCollaborative business modelsInnovationMarketing 3.0Strategy

The innovation challenge in destinations

Research and innovation will have a fundamental role in the competitive improvement of destinations. Any policy for the destination development has to include a vision and an innovative orientation that brings some sort of competitive advantage.

In the Spanish economy, the tourism industry has proved to be one of the most dynamic sectors, which generates multiplying effects in the local economies in all sub-sectors directly and indirectly related to tourism. This multiplying effect together with the sector’s evolution worldwide has contributed decisively to increase competition, which in turn makes the industry develop strategies oriented towards the improvement of its competitiveness.

The new market after the changes in the offer and demand, requires tailored services and activities, with high quality standards, which makes attaining customer satisfaction more difficult than ever before. In this regard, tourism offer has to be organized according to the targeted market segments requirements in order to be successful. Unlike in past times, market penetration, promotion, price setting, product quality and quantity are variables defined by the demand and not by the offer, for it is necessary that the service and activity production in the tourism sector takes into consideration this new scenario, and so new destination models restructuring the links and relationships between stakeholders are being developed.

In any case, research and innovation will have a fundamental role in the destination’s competitiveness improvement. Any action for the successful development of the destination has to include a vision and an innovative orientation that can generate some kind of competitive advantage. The main challenges to foster competitiveness in destinations are the following:

Innovate in mechanisms and cooperation formulas and strategic partnerships. It is basic to develop mechanisms that work both from the public and the private scope, to boost new cooperation models between businesses and public-private partnership, as a way to gain profitability, dimension and commitment in the development of the tourist sector.

Innovate to improve the sector’s competitiveness. There should be techniques and strategies to improve the business and the destination’s competitiveness. This includes the development of Innovation Plans for the improvement of business models, management models, service processes and the destination’s business marketing.

Innovate for the introduction of new tourism products and consolidating the profitability of the current ones. It will be necessary to foster the creation of unique tourism products based on new business models, build upon the capacities and unique resources of the destination, with a high experiential value, using the ICT and being socially and environmentally friendly.

Leverage the resources and hidden heritage. It is crucial to develop new formulas for leveraging tourism resources that are complementary to the traditional ones, unknown or unexploited, so as to achieve the profitable consolidation so long as they create an outstanding experience and expand the revenue streams.

Innovate in destination’s promotion and communication formulas. There is nowadays a communicational saturation, which makes it necessary to face the future with promotion innovative mechanisms which allow optimization of the destination’s visibility.

Innovate in tourism product marketing. There will have to be developed new methods and tools to market tourism products, in order to favor the sector’s competitive improvement and control the dependence on external channels, in a way that guarantees some influence power. In this context, it is fundamental to develop strategies to improve the intelligence and the knowledge of the products and its results, and the client and its consuming habits.

Innovate in client relationship formulas. The strategy will have to develop new client management formulas. Starting up innovative mechanisms to do CRM is vitally important not only to retain clients, but also to achieve a more effective marketing.

This blogpost is from http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/innovacion-de-los-destinos-turisticos/

Business model innovationCollaborative business modelsCollaborative culture

Collaborative tourism: is it an original business model?

When we talk about collaborative tourism or tourism peer to peer, we refer to a new trend in the way of traveling based upon sharing basic resources such as accommodation, transport means or personal experiences with other travelers through platforms where the host publishes his/her offer and the tourist makes the booking.

Theoretically, this phenomenon comes from the collaborative economy model, where consumers may also become suppliers by sharing their means with other consumers, also operating on a global scope, prioritizing human relationship above competition and selfishness. The presentation results in being attractive to more and more tourists, who do not really know the business model completely.

Due to the constant transformation of the virtual economy, the task of identifying and describing virtual business models has turned to be quite hard. However, since this P2P platform business model usually determines it’s success, it is no longer unknown: platforms meet the needs of both supplier and buyer, and take a commission from the booked services price.

Checking the four main collaborative platforms operating in Spain for the four types of services available (eating, accommodation, transport and experiences), we find that their revenue sources are not so different from the traditional tourism intermediation models:

  • AirBnB: charges a commission between 6 to 12%, plus 3% of the conversion rate.
  • BlaBlaCar: depending on the amount of the transaction, it charges 1,60€ for transactions from 1 to 8€ or a commission of 20% for transactions of more than 8€.
  • EatWith: it takes a commission of 15% of the transaction.
  • Trip4Real: it takes 25% of the transaction.

A similar procedure is used for any other tourism intermediary, such as a travel agency, a tour-operator, broker, etc. The difference remains in that these intermediaries comply with the regulations in terms of safety, health and taxes, whereas most of the accommodation and transport means offered in the collaborative platforms do not comply with them.

Therefore, the consumer of collaborative platforms pays a lower price due to the non-compliance with the aforementioned regulations, and takes the risk of suffering any kind of accident without the safety prevention means. Furthermore, despite the social sharing philosophy upon which the platform is created, many suppliers operate for profit rather than for the aim of sharing cost or experiences. However, this is difficult to prove and control.

The hospitality sector’s opinion. The outburst of the tourism collaborative platforms has transformed many housing apartments into competitors for the hotels and regulated tourist apartments, and so it has turned into an important issue for the Public Administration.

According to the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Apartments, there are only two possible solutions to this conflict: the total banning of the platform operations –as has happened in many major cities-, or the obligation for the apartments to comply with the same regulations as the current regulated tourist apartments.

It is necessary to take into account that the tourism sector in Spain is hyper-regulated. There are around 250 regulations at the European level referring to intellectual property, consume, safety and payment means, plus those from the local administration. All in all it entails a great deal of costs that do not apply to the collaborative platform operators, including the VAT, the police files, fiscal and sanitary costs. This is clearly a case of unfair competition. In this regard, there are many points to consider:

  • The regulations applying to these tourist housing apartments are different for every region in Spain, for it is necessary for the destination regulators to study them all in detail.
  • It is necessary to consider the product separately from the platform, taking into account that the platform operation is similar to the traditional channels such as the travel agencies, and so the same regulations should apply.
  • The evolution of the global society is likely to propel this paradigm beyond the current conditions, demanding solutions in terms of adapting the new regulation and policies.

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/turismo-colaborativo/

Business trendsInnovationMarketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

Digital transformation in Tourism

The tourism industry is facing changes affecting the whole value chain, in both public and private sectors and to the whole system (demand, offer, markets and territory). In the coming ten years, the tourism industry is likely to generate new economic, social and environmental impacts through the digital transformation. More precisely, digitalization is impacting intensively and rapidly, forcing businesses to adapt to this environment of permanent transformation.

Digital transformation trends in tourism. There are four main technologies leading the digital transformation in the tourism industry:

  • Cloud: data collection, management and processing.
  • Mobile: platforms, services and applications for smartphones and tablets.
  • Internet of things: devices and objects connected to the internet.
  • Social: social networks through which the users participate, share and exchange contents and services.

And according to the report from the Orange Foundation about the digital transformation of the tourism sector in Spain, the main trends of the upcoming years are likely to be the following:

  1. New intermediation models. New agents have contributed to redesign the value chain, like the collaborative platforms (airbnb, uber, etc.)
  2. Technological platforms based upon cloud computing. Managing and processing Big data and Data Lake.
  3. The mobile. New tourism products and services to be consumed through the mobile devices.
  4. Internet of things. Wearable devices, Smart straps, beacons and chatbots are the main technology elements.
  5. Smart destinations. Appliance of advanced technologies under the denomination of Smart tourism destinations, Smart cities or Smart islands.
  6. Social networks. Also used as marketing tools.
  7. OTA’S and intermediation, search and comparison platforms, and e-commerce.
  8. Collaborative economy. Activity ecosystems where reputation becomes a fundamental business asset.
  9. Other technologies starting to gain protagonism in the tourism industry are geo-localization, virtual reality and augmented reality.
  10. Big data: The chances offered by many of the new technologies to generate and capture data.

In the digital transformation cross-sector process, tourism businesses have four main challenges to tackle:

  • People: new ways of working with human resources regarding communication and the need for skill development to adapt to the new realities, multiculturality, remote working, virtual teamworking, etc.
  • Infrastructures: incorporation of new digital tools.
  • Processes: new ways of using these new tools and working.
  • Systems: availability of environments which are adaptable in a way that allow businesses to design processes more rapidly.

Nowadays, most tourism organizations adopt the most sophisticated digital technology carrying out large investments in renewing their methods and tools, and there are also new collaborative models. However, the success will stay in being capable of having profiles with digital competences.

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/transformacion-digital-en-turismo/

Business trendsInnovationIntelligenceMarketing 3.0Tourism marketing

Tourism 3.0 – Innovation and digital competences

Along with the mega-trends that set Tourism 3.0 apart from conventional models, it is evident that not only the future but also the present state of the tourism industry is to be developed upon the new technologies along the whole industry value chain. Nowadays very few companies have not yet started their digitalization process. However, the issue is not about implementing new technologies, but about how to use them to increase productivity and add value for the customer.

According to Fernando de Pablo (President of Segitur, the Spanish Government’s Society for Tourism Innovation), we are in a world under continuous change where the tourism industry is the only one affected by all technology trends, and therefore needs new digital competencies. In the document elaborated by Thinktur (Forum focused on Tourism Innovation) “10 technological trends in tourism for 2017”, there are a handful of new advancements affecting the tourism sector:

  • Big data – Open data
  • Digital marketing
  • Smartphones & Apps
  • Virtual and immersive reality
  • Internet of things
  • Trans-commercialization
  • Natural language processing
  • Gamification
  • Personalisation systems
  • 2D and 3D printing

The goal of the digital competencies in the tourism industry is to develop the capacity of Discovery, learning, understanding and anticipating tourists’ motivations and expectations.

We have been taking pictures and videos about our traveling experiences for more than ten years, but being able to share them in real time through the social networks is a relatively new thing, which is possible thanks to the global connectivity available in most developed destinations. This is to satisfy the need for sharing our experiences with our relatives and friends, the main reason why we take all those pictures and videos.

The point is how to use the available technology, and to adequately choose which technology should be used for what purpose. It is therefore necessary to learn how to handle them before deciding.

The Hospitality industry and Digital Marketing. In the event “Tourism 3.0 – Innovation and digital competences” organized by IMF Business School we learnt about the experience of three hotels belonging to large Hotel chains implementing  their tourism digitalization strategy through marketing.

Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel. This hotel has initiated a Project to create tailored experiences through Big Data tools.

Hotel Meliá Castilla. This hotel has implemented an Inbound Marketing Strategy searching for customer loyalty, trying to turn clients into fans, so that the motivation for staying in the hotel comes from the tourists themselves.

Novotel Madrid Center. Beyond delivering the expected service, they search for elements that make the experience outperform in the customer’s expectation.

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/turismo-3-0-innovacion-y-competencias-digitales/

Co-creationCollaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureInnovative cultureMarketing 3.0

Making collaboration efficient when face to face is not possible

As it has been explained in many posts, content and product co-creation is in the core of Marketing 3.0, though to leverage a significant share of the stakeholders’ creativity potential it is necessary to think of virtual co-creation methods, to complement co-creation workshops and other face to face activities. However, beyond the technological tools such as video-conference, it is necessary to know how to manage virtual co-creation. This article provides many clues to do so successfully.

Started as a simple experiment in social media, in 2010 composer and conductor Eric Whitacre called out to his online fans to record themselves singing “Sleep” by the British choir Polyphony and upload the result. Impressed by the result, he decided to push the concept to the next level by recording himself conducting ‘Lux Aurumque’, then asking fans to sing along to that. This way, the first Virtual Choir was created. The results of that experiment quickly became viral. Now with more than fifteen million views, the Virtual Choir phenomenon has reached all corners of the world, inspiring more and more singers to join each year.

Beyond its beauty and emotional impact, Virtual Choir also fascinated because its implications regarding the potential new uses for new communication technologies and as one of the first virtual experiences turned into something real. The Virtual Choir can also be considered as an important remainder for how businesses might overcome the challenges of virtuality to benefit from innovative and more efficient business processes, customer relationships or forms of production, from co-innovation and co-production to crowdsourcing, crowdfunding or open source.

Not even leaving the limits of a corporation or a company, working remotely can offer operational flexibility, happier employees and lower costs, but to team up virtually with colleagues and coworkers can also pose important challenges. As we know, truly efficient collaboration presents no few difficulties. Virtual collaboration raises even more added complications that require even more care. But as the concept of the extended enterprise becomes more common and most professionals can do their jobs from anywhere, the more critical becomes to get virtual teams right. But how?

Getting right four pillars for virtual collaboration

The answer is not easy. Different studies carried out during the last decade seem to conclude that most of virtual groups fail to satisfy the expectations of companies and their clients. In another study conducted by Deloitte some years ago most of CEO’s and other managers interviewed still considered face-to-face interaction much more productive that virtual communication, and nearly half of them admitted ignorance and confusion about collaboration technologies and their potential.

But some other experts consider is all about how these teams are managed. An Aon Consulting report found that dispersed teams, when run accordingly to this condition, could outperform those sharing the same office space (recording up to 43% higher efficiency). A study of 80 global software teams conducted by BCG and WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management concluded that virtual teams can improve employee productivity when they are properly managed.

But, what do they mean by “properly managed” or “run accordingly to its virtual condition”? According to Keith Ferrazzi and based on his research and experience helping all sort of organizations as customers of his consulting firm, there are four critical elements to get right: right teams, right leadership, right technology and right touch points.

Size is important (the smaller, the better)

We have recently wrote in this blog about how important is to consider people mindset and attitude for working collaboratively beyond their professional knowledge and other skills. Ferrazzi agrees people should first of all be specially suited to work in virtual teams, backing for instance profiles with good communication skills or high emotional intelligence. But it is also equally important to put them into groups of the right size and implementing and clearly establishing and communicating the right roles for each one.

As we know, smaller groups facilitate collaboration. In the case of virtual teams, size should be even smaller than when face to face interaction is the norm (some studies suggest teams of 5-6 people and no more than 10 in any case). Team members reduce effort when they feel less responsible for output, but this fact can equally be applied to non-virtual teams. Collaboration between people not sharing a physical space should pay special attention to ensure inclusive communication, a quality harder to achieve the bigger the virtual group is.

Good leadership amplified

Managers can maximize the productivity of virtual teams also by developing the right leadership. Again, this is a quality to apply to every teamwork, no matter if virtual or not. But right leadership must be amplified in virtual ones. A study of different engineering groups concluded that the virtual teams that performed best were those with managers with previous experience in leading such work groups.

Encouraging open dialogue, for instance, is particularly important in these cases. Leaders of dispersed groups in particular must push members to be frank with one another as the problems associated with lack of affinity are more common and severe for virtual teams. For similar reasons, virtual collaboration requires an extra effort fostering trust among co-workers. Ferrazzi mentions the case of a fully virtual organization that encourage new hires to offer video tours of their work spaces, allowing colleagues to mentally picturing their surroundings in later communications. Managers also push their team members to share personal news as a way to compensate the lack of the common chat about their lives that usually takes place sooner or later when a physical office is shared.

Special care is also recommended about clarifying goals and guidelines and establishing a common purpose or vision (explaining and repeating often the reason of working together and the benefits that will result of that). Particularly vital in the case of virtual teams are guidelines about interaction between members. For instance, multitasking on conference calls should be banned, as full attention is needed when using communication technologies that are not able to fully replace the subtle signals of personal interaction beyond a voice.

Not leaving it all to virtuality

Fostering touch points is also critical. Virtual teams should come together as often as possible. To do so, some specific stages of the working process are more important than others. Kickoff should be one of these for sure, using a first face to face meeting to star working in some of the key points mentioned (clarifying team goals or encouraging trust, for instance). If any proper project management establishes milestones, when dealing with virtual team leaders can leverage them to get people together for celebrating achievement of short-term goals or cracking problems.

And last but not least, efficient virtual collaboration also depends on using the right technology. According to Ferrazzi, even top-notch virtual teams can fail due to poor technology. In this case, recommendations are not so much about detailed features as about fulfilling general needs especially critical in the case virtual interactions. For instance, facilitating automatic transcriptions or records with a simple click, making easy to search for this content in a database or, while using the right tool for each mission, favor technologies that better help to reproduce face to face interaction (videoconferencing instead of a phone call, for example).

This post is from http://www.co-society.com/making-collaboration-efficient-face-face-possible/