Sandbox Time – The Importance of Play When Learning New Technology
November 18, 2009 by Phil Montero
One challenge many teams and organizations face is getting their people to use and embrace much of the amazing collaboration software and technology that is available. In working with virtual teams, we find that many people tend to fall back on email rather than shared online work spaces – or opt for traditional conference calls rather than using web meeting or conferencing services.
Find Their Comfort Zone
The biggest stumbling block is getting your team comfortable with the new software or service and truly understanding the benefits it provides.
In short, why would it make my life or job easier?
Far too few companies provide training on these technologies – so you and your colleagues are forced to figure it out as you go along or after a very brief tutorial. This sink-or-swim mentality causes many of these powerful tools to go untouched and impedes productivity.
The secret to turn this all around is simple . . . play!
The Power of Play
Play is a non-threatening way to remove stress from learning and encourage exploration of the features of new technology. Create some type of project for your team that’s fun and everyone will be excited about using the new tool.
Want your team to start using SharePoint or some other type of web-based discussion board or collaboration space? Why not setup a place where they can share recipes, bios, and information about their hobbies and families?
Want them to use WebEx or some other meeting service? Create time to have a regular virtual water cooler where they can share photos, create a poll about which books or movies are their favorites, or pass control of the desktop around to write a story together (with each person typing their paragraph into Word) or give a tour of favorite useful websites.
Play Let’s People Succeed and Fail – Safely
Let’s face it, no one wants to explore using a new technology or tool with the pressure of a project deadline; or the possibility of looking foolish in front of peers and co-workers if you are not using it correctly. I’m extremely comfortable with technology, always have been, and I attribute that mostly to the fact that I play with it and explore it’s features before trying to use it for something important.
When trying to learn Sony Vegas for video editing I didn’t create some critical video for my business website – instead I took some family footage and created something fun to share with friends. When looking to learn more about desktop publishing I didn’t immediately create a company newsletter – I created a mock CD cover for my band.
The only limit is your imagination!
Ask the people on your team, they may have some great ideas for fun projects. This is extremely useful for virtual teams: using a fun, playful approach to learning new technology not only leads to greater technology adoption and increased productivity, but also encourages informal communication and team building, which in turn increases trust and accountability.
It’s not just about choosing the right tool – it’s how you thoughtfully apply it. So find ways for your team to play with the tools you want them to adopt and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they find new ways to apply them to their work process and teamwork.
Have you used “play” in your work environment? Post a comment below and tell us about it!
(Thanks to Webex for featuring this as a Guest Post on their Ideas in Motion blog. I highly recommend this blog where they share ideas and tips for innovation and working smarter)