By Jens Hansen, CoFounder & CEO at Supertrends Institute
What does collaboration already look like?
Let’s start with a couple of examples
Think about the recent space flight with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; there was no flight crew on that shuttle, only passengers. This means that Bezos and his fellow passengers were relying on collaboration with distant partners actually flying his space shuttle, and to a greater extent than we’ve ever seen with space flight, the technology powering that collaboration. Do you think the world’s richest man would fly into space without pilots if he wasn’t completely confident in the tech enabling that flight? Of course not.
Or, when chief surgent, Mehran Anvari, picks up a surgical instrument and cuts into somebody’s flesh, he doesn’t use his own hands. In fact, he’s not even in the room. He operates on patients that are 400 kilometers away in very tight collaboration with a surgical team on location
From a console in St Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Canada, he controls a robot surgeon in an entirely different part of the country, slicing, stitching, and removing bits of the body. He and shifting surgical crews on location has carried out more than 20 operations so far, including colon operations and hernia repairs.
The technology behind long-distance surgery is now mature enough to be used more widely, allowing people to access world-leading expertise and better healthcare without having to travel. Could it become the norm in most hospitals?
We are clearly already in a new era of “working together”. The two examples above may not reflect your everyday work situation. But almost no matter what your daily work situation is you are highly likely to be collaborating differently, more broadly and by more intense use of technology than just a couple of years ago. The way we work together within our companies has changed forever, but don’t overlook the other major shift that’s been occurring ever since March 2020: Many of us are now more willing to and experience obvious benefits from collaborating with a network of external parties, rather than just with our on-premises, co-workers.
What will be driving our future collaboration
I would say that the time we are in now feels like we are already in what we before the pandemic would refer to as “the future”. I’m not sure exactly what collaboration will look like 5, 10 or even 20 years from now, but I do believe it’ll be shaped by three notable forces.
Comfort With New Technology
The richest man in the world feeling comfortable with a remote collaborating flight crew and countless of examples has shown that remote surgery is superior to local, less advanced surgery – These examples alone illustrate our increasing comfort level with technology that years ago would have seemed alien: Add to this voice assistants who control most functions in your home, cars that can drive themselves while collaborating with other cars and objects, and bots business owners can collaborate with to improve their customer service.
Technology both augmenting and replacing human effort is perhaps the most exciting and most terrifying aspect of the future of collaboration. The impact of technology will only accelerate in coming years as we add more and more AI to the mix.
Lower Barriers To Collaboration
Not only are we becoming more comfortable with technology, but we’re also seeing barriers that previously existed being wiped out by new technologies. Thanks to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), you can meet in the ”same room” with people you are working with who live anywhere in the world and even move objects around as needed.
The next level of this is being created by Nvidia, the California based, ultra-high-tech company, founded by Jensen Huang, as Nvidia through its omniverse technology is able to build a digital-twin of any physical object, dynamic or location. Be that a person, a car, a storm, a building, a whole city, or an entire country – down to the smallest detail. This is already happening and can only grow into endless of virtual communities where we can meet, interact and collaborate through perfect digital twins. Have a look for yourself in this Nvidia Omniverse video or this Nvidia Avatar Video
The point is: Collaboration has never been more accessible, and that accessibility will only increase in the coming years as technology continues to advance. Today, we have rudimentary avatars for our VR meetings and must wear bulky headsets, but what will that experience look like already in 2027, and more importantly, what kind of creative problem solving will it unlock?
A Constantly Shifting Baseline
As technology pushes collaboration into new frontiers, what we’re aiming for is not an endpoint. There is no finish line with this effort but rather a baseline that is constantly being reset. That’s why it’s critical for organizations to set themselves up to support rapid innovation by constantly adopting to new and more efficient ways of collaborating – the speed at which we’re moving is only going to increase.
What most change-ready, future fit and innovative organizations are experiencing is that they stress-test new concepts and work in teams to figure out the best outcome. After working together to distill information into something that is easy to digest, they create forums for discussing the process and the outcomes in a quest to put a structure in place to reevaluate, reassess and readjust based on the collaborative dynamics — all while using tools that make the experience as seamless as possible.
It calls for a concerted effort and collective attitude to keep up with where collaboration is and where it’s headed. The envelope is constantly being pushed, we must all be agile, open-minded and focused.
The Changed Equation
Before March 2020 and the pandemic, you could probably argue that the balance between collaboration technology and demand had shifted toward technology. We had plenty of tools to collaborate, but not necessarily the willingness to use them. Now, because of the two years we have all endured, the demand is keeping up with – maybe even outpacing – the technology available to meet that demand.
Only a few years from now, we may on a regular basis be collaborating with AI-bots and some colleagues in the form of avatars writing memos, creating new ideas for products and marketing campaigns by dictating everything to a voice assistant while being driven to work in your almost self-driving car. To some this may sound a bit far-fetched, but that future is closer than we think.
Written by Jens Hansen, CoFounder and CEO of Supertrends Institute – A small company with people representation in 14 different countries across the world, created fully during the pandemic only through virtual collaboration.
Inspired by a Forbes article by Jon Bostock, Gridiron Capital