Virtual Teams

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Print your own house

For many years, I've looked at open source as the start of a new economy, a way of life, not just a model for software development. My Masters thesis looked at online communities who were volunteering their time to collaborate with like-minded people to create a better version of something that would otherwise be a commercial product. Doubters among my colleagues and friends ask why it would happen now when it hasn't worked in the past. To me, the answer is clearly that the foundations hadn't been set. This is not simple philanthropy where one's donation (usually money) benefits unknown people on the other side of the world - the donors benefit directly from others who add their complementary skills to their own. This is not communism, driven from the top down. It must be driven by the masses, and until now, the masses haven't had the time or the tools. Nor were experts from around the world as able to easily connect and share ideas. Despite the efforts of groups like OSCar, my vision still had limited application to physical products. It worked for software, and it could work for governance, but you still need specialised components to build a car. Alastair Parvin, in his TED talk, Architecture for the people by the people, has shown me that we're a step closer. The 3D printer now makes it possible for people to create the components they need even to build a house. Where do you see this trend going next? Is an open source economy possible? What problems must be overcome? Some believe that the power-hungry few will sabotage such an economy. I worry that the raw materials used by the printer may still

By |May 30th, 2013|Categories: Ideology, Technology, Virtual Teams|Tags: |0 Comments

Does Team Culture Help Virtual Teams?

Imagine working with someone on a daily basis but only seeing them face-to-face once a year or even less frequently. Instead, you'd communicate over the phone or via email, instant messaging, web conferencing, video conferencing and, these days, even social network tools like facebook and twitter. Most of my career has been spent working in and managing such virtual teams, and in managing the technologies that enable other virtual teams to work effectively. When I was working in Belgium, my boss was in the US, my staff were in the US and Singapore and I worked with people as widely distributed as Guangzhou, Kobe, Delhi, Caracas, Cincinnati, Brussels and Geneva to provide services to the rest of my company so that the marketing and production teams could work the same way. I always thought that the technology was only part of the story. I'd been successful in creating a highly reliable and widely used service because I'd spent time designing conference rooms that were simple yet feature rich, that had the right wall colour and lighting to create the best images, and by building a team that could support the technology from anywhere. But I wondered if there was more below the surface - whether the culture of the team itself could determine the effectiveness of the team. How would the structure of a team make a difference? Was it better to have people who did what they were told or who would choose their own paths? Would the nature of interactions among team members lead to a difference in productivity? Most literature on this topic is based in management theory. Ethnographic studies are rare. Tom Boellstorff wrote a fantastic ethnography on the on-line virtual

By |June 12th, 2011|Categories: Virtual Teams|Tags: , , |0 Comments