563: Collaboration Nation

A Thousand Things to Talk About
563: Collaboration Nation

How many or what tools do you use to collaborate with others?

Full episode script

If you’re in a tech startup or a Patreon for a number of podcasts, you’ve likely heard of one of the several types of new collaboration tools — Slack, Discord, Hipchat… there’s hundreds of them available out there. Many of them claim to be the newest and best way to streamline work and eliminate team overload.


These are some very big promises, but the question is – do these new wave collaboration tools actually make a big difference in how companies work?


A study discussed in Recode in February of 2017 looked closely at the adoption rates and trends based on a survey of 1,001 U.S.-based working adults aged 18-74 at medium (100-999 employees) and large (1,000+ employees) companies across a range of industries. Technalysis Research, who completed the survey, came out with a number of conclusions, including, quote

Despite the appearance of modern communications and collaboration tools, “old school” methods of emails, phone calls and texts still make up 75 percent of all communications with co-workers. There are certainly some differences based on the age of the employee, but even for workers under 45, the number is 71 percent. From a software perspective, it seems that old habits die hard. Emailing documents back and forth is still the most common method of collaboration with co-workers at 35 percent, while the usage of cloud-based storage services is only 8 percent with co-workers and 7 percent with colleagues from other organizations. 


I’m left wondering, though, if this survey suffers from a sampling issue — after all, it’s pretty stereotypical that small and new companies are much more likely to adopt new tools, and heavily remote teams tend to accept these tools much more quickly.


In 2011, MIT Technology Review took a close look at these collaboration tools, and one of the things that they found is that companies are preferring the return to curated collaboration environments with smaller groups that need or want to work together. In other words, small groups are the most effective work groups.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.