The rapid shift to remote and hybrid models during the pandemic created new challenges for teams to collaborate effectively. Without the organic energy, collisions, and serendipity of in-person work, distributed team dynamics suffered from isolation, misalignment, and disengagement. The reasons for this are many, but to put it simply, we did it all wrong! We need to fundamentally change how we work, not just where we work.
While many professionals knew this was necessary, few leaders were able to do much about it as companies around the world had to shut down their offices and scramble to stay alive. What many saw as their digital transformations over the many years prior, were not much more than modernizations, utilizing new technologies and security protocols, rather than finding new ways of working together.
We will change that by bringing together our colleagues who advocate for the future of work, members of the Enterprise 2.0 community, advocates for Industry 4.0, and other futurists who can see beyond what is, to imagine and co-design what could be, together.
Introducing the Team Flow Institute
To address these challenges and reimagine teamwork for this era of remote work, I’m excited to introduce you to the Team Flow Institute. The Institute is a new initiative that will help organizations recapture the heightened collaboration, creativity, and fulfillment of being in flow together—even when working remotely.
The Team Flow Institute will convene professionals, researchers, and leaders to identify practices that enable team flow across different industries, functions, and contexts. We also aim to define, design, and develop a new role, the Team Flow Facilitator, to guide organizations in effectively facilitating teamwork and building aligned cultures in distributed environments.
The Institute will serve as a hub for education, research, and actionable insights to spread awareness of team flow and equip change agents with the ability to transform team dynamics within their organizations. Our mission is to redesign how we work, to map protocols, rituals, and interventions to an array of distinct contexts, ushering in a new era of empowered, engaged, and inspired team collaboration.
This requires us to re-assess the very heart of our organizations, the mission, vision, and values we choose to pursue and operationalize. It also requires us to reassess how we hire for fit to purpose and fit to team dynamics, while being more inclusive and achieving greater diversity with dignity.
Discovering the Power of Artificial Intelligence to Unlock Team Flow
In our own remote collaboration, my co-founder Jaime Schwarz and I discovered how artificial intelligence (AI) services like Otter, Fireflies, and Grain enabled us to be fully present with each other in virtual meetings. By offloading transcription and documentation to AI, we could vibe together in a state of team flow.
Since that discovery, the advancements from ChatGPT and other purpose built AI tools has been staggering, with new AI collaboration tools being announced daily. We now go beyond reading transcripts and interrogate them with tools like “Fred from Fireflies”, and custom system prompts co-developed with Intelibotique. Together we will not only redesign how we work, but how we augment our collaboration using AI.
Discovering the Academic Research that Proves Team Flow
We uncovered a wealth of academic research on team flow, notably from Jeff van den Hout of Flow Concepts in the Netherlands, who has published extensively on Team Flow. He frames flow as the state created when “collective ambition” is the foundation for high performance collaboration between team members. His work builds on decades of team science focused on coordination, trust, and purpose. It looks clearly at the dependencies and requirements of facilitating team flow.
This model is just a small slice of Jeff van den Hout’s exceptional work over the past decade plus, and an introduction to the course we will be offering in the fall, “Team Flow, What We Know”.
Introducing Team Flow Facilitators
At the Team Flow Institute, we’re translating these insights into new ways of working that recapture the magic of flow for remote teams.
As managers are more often required to be contributors in today’s work environments, they have less time to develop their people, less time to prepare for meetings, and less ability to focus on the conditions and systems of collaboration. This is why we are introducing a new role, that of the Team Flow Facilitator – guides who analyze team challenges, foster psychological safety, and implement the protocols to get everyone on the same page and the same wavelength. They clarify communications and align teams to shared priorities and promote inclusive participation.
Facilitators combine people skills with scientific insights on team dynamics to facilitate the sort of connectedness and collaboration that leads to self generating momentum. They unlock continuous high performance and wellbeing even virtually, acting as invaluable leaders in the future of work.
With Team Flow Facilitators instead of traditional project managers, we believe teams that regularly achieve Team Flow have another advantage — they will generate their own momentum without having to be constantly monitored or prodded. The role of Team Flow Facilitator will be fulfilled by a project manager, a team leader, or by a different focused individual.
Our Approach: Researching What Works, Where
The Team Flow Institute is structured as a research institute because there is still much to be learned about optimizing team collaboration in the remote age. While we have substantial existing knowledge and hypotheses around enabling team flow, there are many open questions to be answered through further study.
Our institute model seeks to bring together professionals and academics to consolidate insights from team science while pushing the boundaries of what we know through new research. We aim to compile best practices for remote teamwork and provide education to cultivate a new breed of facilitators. But we approach this work as a collaborative effort, not from a position of having all the solutions.
An open community model reflects the reality that we still have much to discover in order to translate team flow research into effective protocols that can be tailored for diverse organizational contexts, especially when it comes to augmented collaboration and the role of the human co-pilot leveraging artificial intelligence. This discovery process is a key part of our mission as an institute guiding teams into a new era of virtual collaboration.
Our Focus: Maximum Momentum through Team Flow
The focus is on unlocking the state of team flow — a condition of deep alignment, engagement, and awareness. The Team Flow Institute is founded on decades of research into high performing teams and new insights from the remote work revolution.
Here’s how we’re pursuing this mission:
- Identifying team practices and protocols proven to enable team flow in different contexts
- Defining a new role: the Team Flow Facilitator to guide organizations in orchestrating effective team work, especially remotely
- Building an inclusive community of practitioners to collaborate on the future of team science and augmented collaboration
- Providing education, research, and consulting to expand awareness of team flow principles and protocols globally
The Summer of Flow 2023, What’s Next
Today we’re unveiling our new website and membership programs. In addition to exclusive content, we will be hosting a series of free educational events, workshops, and office hours across the remainder of the summer, our Summer of Flow. I invite you to join me as a community member of the Team Flow Institute to share your insights and work with us to map what works in which situations to create team flow. Together, let’s lead a work revolution focused on human dignity, agency, and unlocking our full collaborative potential.
Join the community for free today, and let’s redesign how we work, together.
PS/ a personal note
For those of you who know me, this announcement may not be a surprise, but for those who don’t, a little background.
The Team Flow Institute not only rises from the literal ashes of Remotely.Global, which I launched at the beginning of the pandemic, but from my work with The Noble Pursuit, the spirit of Social Media Club, my time at Deloitte Digital leading Social Business, and most especially the Alynd software I built after leaving Deloitte with Rawn Shah and Bill Sanders.
As I have said many times since winding down Alynd in 2015, I should have written the book first. This is, in part, my attempt to get that right.