The Risk of Being the Sucker

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The fear of being exploited by others – rather than the temptation to follow your own self-interest and exploit other people – is the greatest threat to cooperation. This is the conclusion from a recent meta-analysis of social dilemma games by Professor Friederike Mengel of the University of Essex. As a closely-related idea to collaboration, the willingness to cooperate sets the stage for jointly pursuing a shared outcome. If that cooperation is undermined, the collaborative endeavour itself will flounder.

Professor Mengel studied cooperation under controlled conditions, using the prisoner’s dilemma game to gauge whether the risk of them being exploited or the temptation to exploit was higher. In the prisoner’s dilemma game, two prisoners have to decide independently whether to cooperate with each other or not. If both cooperate, both go free. If neither cooperates (both “defect” which means saying the other person is guilty), both stay in prison. But if only one cooperates and the other defects, the defector goes free and the one who cooperates stays in prison. The game captures the trade-off between the risk of being exploited and the temptation to exploit (using the frame of reference from Professor Mengel), because while it is better for both parties to cooperate, individually one is best off if they defect while the other cooperates. The one who defects takes everything, and the one who cooperates loses everything. The overall conclusion was that in low-risk one-shot games, rates of cooperation are the highest. Which also means that:

  • In low-risk, multi-shot games – where players can establish a reputation for cooperating or not that can then be used again them – rates of cooperation are not as high. The longer you cooperate, the greater the risk that at some point another party will take advantage of your tendency to do so.
  • In high-risk games where the potential payoff is significant, rates of cooperation are not as high.

“What if they cheat me” becomes the rallying cry in these situations where this fear takes root, and as a consequence, people hold back from cooperating to protect themselves from loss.

One implication for collaboration in organisational life is that collaboration denotes more than just ad hoc working together. Structured and long-running collaborations benefit from terms of reference, contractual obligations, and checks-and-balances in resource allocations. These formal mechanisms decrease the perceived risk of being exploited and thus increase the likelihood that people will both cooperate and collaborate effectively over the long term.

It also sounds a warning on only building trust using the tit-for-tat approach, because while a pattern of responding in kind can be built up over time through repeated interactions, there’s nothing to stop one party from making the decision to exploit the other as the rewards available increase. Or for one party to hold back from fully investing in the work because they fear being exploited at the last turn.

Download the eBook Collaboration Framework and learn more about collaboration patterns and how to collaborate better using Microsoft Office 365 tools!

Improving Performance Across Teams: Shared Learning

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About half of my children are involved in the St John Youth program around the city, and for a couple of them, what happens in the local, regional and national competitions is of high interest. Several have been to local and regional competitions to date, and even if they aren’t involved directly, pay attention to the results from any competition that involves their fellow cadets.

The National competitions for this year have just been held in our country, and for the seventh year in a row, a team from our region has won yet again. In terms of the regions, the other squads come from more densely populated areas (or “greater choice of talent”), and for some, areas where the wealth is greater than where we live (or “greater access to resources”). Which makes for an interesting question: why does our region win year-after-year, especially when the team composition is variable year-on-year?

One potential answer is that it’s the coaches in this region. Aligned with the idea that great coaches create superior performers, I wonder what would happen to the rankings across the country if the coaches were switched around for the competition next year. Could the coaches who have done so well even with changing team composition in this region pull off a win if they were transported to another region and given a different national squad to train? Of course, one of my kids doesn’t like this idea. “They can’t have our coaches,” I was told when I suggested it yesterday. “We don’t want another region to win.” That’s quite a lot of red energy for a teenager!

Shared Learning in Organisational Life

But surely it’s the fundamental question that should be asked by any organisation that sees systematic variation in performance across teams in different parts of its operations. Why the difference? Especially when one team outperforms other teams year-after-year, even when the team composition changes. While “Why the difference?” is the first question, the second is, “So how do we spread that learning across our organisation so we can uplift the capability of everyone in our organisation to win?” This is where an investment in building communities of practice across an organisation can work so well; people share what is and isn’t working, and the exchange of different ideas and approaches provides fodder for consideration and experimentation more broadly. This shared learning can be ad hoc and individualised, or more systematic via incorporation into new and updated “best practices.”

Perhaps in competition situations, it is harder to develop this line of thinking (where top talent can attract top pricing), but in organisational life when a shared and common mission pulls everyone together, learning from the best and spreading good ideas is core and fundamental to lifting future performances.

Our eBook Collaboration Framework addresses collaboration issues among teams and communities. It provides a useful guideline to better manage these conflicts and improve the performances of all the teams across your organisation. 

Smarter meetings with Microsoft Teams

6th May, Rotterdam
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Do you find yourself frustrated in meetings quite regularly?

Then this workshop is for you.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. We know that meetings are necessary to reach our company goals, be aligned and maintain interpersonal relations, but we don’t always feel that they actually add much value to what we’re doing.

Luckily, there are ways of increasing your productivity by architecting, designing, building and running smarter meetings.

In this workshop, we will discuss 6 ingredients for smarter meetings. Plus, you’ll be walking away with actionable guidelines that will help you architect smarter meetings right away.


What’s in it for you?

  • DON’T’S – Insights to recognize and identify bad meetings based on 4 main characteristics of ineffective meetings.
  • DO’s – 6 ingredients that will help you architect smarter meetings.
  • Actionable guidelines that will help you determine which thing you might want to stop doing, and new habits you want to start doing in order to have more productive meetings.
  • Insights on how the right technology can support you in architecting smarter meetings. We will take a look at Microsoft Teams – where we can practice some of the things we discussed using a demo account.

Where and When?

Date and Time: May 6, 2019, from 9:00 until 13:00.

Location: Silverside HQ, Rivium Quadrant 75/5, Capelle a/d IJssel.

Full program

09:00 Walk-in with coffee/tea & optional breakfast
09:30 Meeting Madness – why we hate bad meetings
10:00 Meeting Blessings – 6 ingredients for smarter meetings
10:45 How to stop hurting yourself – Stop doing / Start doing
11:15 The Smarter Meeting Machine!
11:45 Demo time! – Smarter meetings using Microsoft Teams
12:00 Wrapup & Lunch


Register for free!

Location: Siverside, Rivium Quadrant 75, Capelle a/d IJssel

Hallelujah! Microsoft Teams Praise is here

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A new message in the Microsoft Office 365 Admin Message centre (MC176548) on March 27, announces a new feature: Microsoft Teams Praise. This was on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap with ID: 49172. It will be rolled out to all organisations by late April 2019.

“Praise is a new Microsoft Teams feature that gives users the option to send Praise badges to their colleagues, and we are beginning the rollout starting today. This feature is on-by-default and requires administrator action to disable.”

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Microsoft Teams Praise is an employee recognition tool. Praise enables team members to share a badge of recognition for a job well done. Why not celebrate the success of your team with Praise?

With Microsoft Teams Praise, people will be able to recognize their colleague’s contributions by sending various badges their way, such as “Leadership,” “team player,” and “problem solver” are just a few options. Giving Praise can be done in a private Chat or in a Team Conversation. It will be available for Teams desktop, browser and mobile app.

There is a (for now?) limited list of badges you can add in the conversation or chat, to express your particular type of praise. It would be great if we could create custom badges which could be aligned to the organisations’ goals, values, strategy, vision and mission. Another great enhancement would be to allow organisation rewards: badges that can be given by specific people, such as HR or your manager.

Why a High-Engagement Culture Matters

Every employee needs some motivation now and then. This is why employee recognition should be part of your company’s culture. Acknowledge your staff’s exemplary work, and reinforce particular behaviours, practices, or activities that result in better performance and positive business results. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the Employee of the Year Award handed out by HR. It does not have to be a top-down recognition. In fact, getting recognised by your peers is often a much bigger motivation. What’s not to like about being respected by your colleagues?

Employee recognition makes employees:

  • HAPPIER – which often results in higher productivity
  • WANT TO STAY in your company longer (employee retention)
  • CREATE A CULTURE OF SELF-IMPROVEMENT which, of course, results in higher productivity and better outcomes

How do Employees Become Disengaged?

Even good employees can be disengaged. It doesn’t make them bad employees. It doesn’t make them highly productive and effective either. Some reasons for becoming disengaged at work are:

  • Not getting direct feedback from your manager or peers
  • Lack of socialising with your peers
  • No good understanding of, (or not aligned to) company mission, vision, and values
  • Feeling underappreciated for your work

Back in 2015, I wrote an eBook ‘Improve Employee Engagement Through Recognition & Reward for Microsoft Office 365, Yammer & SharePoint 2013‘. Although some of the content may be outdated (particularly around examples of recognition in LinkedIn and SharePoint), the core message about recognition & reward is still very active.

Read the Microsoft Support Article ‘Teams Praise’ here.

Email less, talk more

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No emails, please!

Despite all the research, coaching, training and advice saying we should not be slaves to our Inbox. Telling us to use email only for private, personal and asynchronous communication only, nothing much seems to change.

Maybe this will make you reconsider using email for just about everything.

We tend to write emails that are …

  • not creative
  • not leading to any kind of productive discussion
  • providing way too much (useless) information rather than getting to the point briefly
  • open to misinterpretation
  • saying things we would not dare say to someone’s face

Still not convinced email is no good for collaboration? Then watch Tripp & Tyler.

More on how to improve your daily work you can find in the article Small steps for big changes: Tiny habit huge advantage.


Push for Private Channels in Microsoft Teams

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On March 28 there was a CollabTalk Tweetjam to discuss the requested need expressed by users and the Microsoft Teams community described as the push for private channels in Microsoft Teams. CollabTalk often organises interesting TweetJam discussions. Completely public, for anyone to join in via Twitter and the hashtag #CollabTalk whether you want to tweet, or simply lurk in the background (as I did). 

This particular TweetJam discusses “Do We Need Private Channels in Microsoft Teams?” 

“One of the most requested features with more than 18,500 upvotes in UserVoice has been Private Channels. The idea is to allow Team members to create a secure channel for discussion and sharing that can only be seen by the channel owner and invited members …”

I find the topic very interesting, and would like to provide my insights to the question.

These are the questions that were covered during the TweetJam:

  1. Are private channels in Microsoft Teams a good idea? Why, or why not? 
  2. Do private channels in Microsoft Teams go against the product’s otherwise simple/flat collaboration model?
  3. What are the business justifications for private channels in Microsoft Teams? 
  4. Are there acceptable workarounds for private channels in Microsoft Teams today? 
  5. What are the administration and compliance risks with private channels in Microsoft Teams? 
  6. What will be the impact of Microsoft Teams private channels to adoption? 
  7. If you led the Microsoft Teams product team, what 3 new features would be your top priority?

You can find the whole discussion and answers to the 7 questions by following the #CollabTalk hashtag.


Here are my thoughts on the question “Do We Need Private Channels in Microsoft Teams?”

In general my first reaction would be to answer the question with ‘No!’. Not that I do not understand the need for it being expressed by many. I get it, sometimes you may want to limit who can access some information. And at other times you may simply want to keep a lit on information overload, and therefore limit access to certain topics. But at the same time, I don’t see any problem in creating a separate team for that. In my opinion, a team is just another ‘folder’.

Filing Cabinet

Folder culture

There has been a long tradition of providing granular access to ‘folders’. Ever since humanity started writing we found ways to store our content. First clay tablets, then papyrus scrolls, and we saved them in vases. When paper became common we created bookshelves and cabinets to store. When we started using computers we simply continued down this path of thinking how content should be stored: compartmentalised in drawers and folders. In fact, folders and cabinets are still the common picture we use for icons to indicate we are talking about storing space. 

Most employees love (extensive) hierarchical folder structures. Apparent in most organisations’ massive shared drives. Often with extensive granular access levels, but very often also pretty flat, where the whole Sales department or a whole country has access to the top level folder, and its sub-folders. Often the hierarchical folder structure is not for granting granular access, but for easier ‘topic-based’ browsing. It seems folder structures are the way most people are finding their files (instead of using a search tool). Again, I think this is because our brains are hard-wired to think in folder structures ever since we stored our papyrus scrolls. This is why tagging never really caught on in the enterprise. People don’t understand them, they want folders! Having Channels serves the purpose of channeling information around specific topics or processes. It makes it easy to focus the conversation around a specific topic, as well as organising Files around that topic, or adding even more Tabs to the Teams’ Channel. Some Channels in the Team may not even be of (much) interest to you, but be relevant to other people in the group. And that’s OK. As long as information in there may be seen by others than who are invested in the topic, there’s no harm done. If it does require more privacy, create a separate Team, with different / limited members.

So, do people really need private channels, or is this ‘need’ the consequence of thousands of years thinking in folder structures?

Why would it seem different to create a separate team to provide different people access, than having a Channel in a Team for which we define different access? Isn’t the result just the same? And the pro for creating separate Teams is there is much more clarity on who can access what. It’s pretty straightforward, easy to see who is a member. I fear for much more confusion, as well as complicated member management when we are creating private folders.

What do you think? Private Channels, Yes, or No? Cast your vote on UserVoice. The current status of the Idea is ‘Working on it’.

You can find the recap of the #CollabTalk TweetJam on YouTube here: