Responses to the question: what helps people collaborate?

Project zombies! Wiki tumbleweeds! Making teams more awesome! These were just three of the many activities we ran on the Workshop Wall at Summit, to get customers to have serious fun together and learn from each other.

At Atlassian, we put a lot of effort into listening to what customers think. We really want to learn more about the ways they use our products. This year’s Summit was a great opportunity to do that, and we put an unprecedented effort into customer research activities.

We not only brought back the customer listening lounge, and beefed up the usability testing kiosks to an all-time high, but we also tried something completely different: The Workshop Wall.

The Workshop Wall was part feedback device, part brainstorming activity, part confessional, and all parts serious fun. We ran a variety of different activities on the wall during the two main days of Summit. For each activity, anyone could come up and write ideas and answers to various questions on Post-it notes, as well as read the responses. The Workshop Wall generated over 470 Post-it notes!

It was a fresh, collaborative way for customers and vendors alike to share ideas, strike up rich conversations, and learn from each other.

Photo of two people adding their thoughts and ideas to a big whiteboard wall at Summit14
Customers adding their thoughts and ideas to the Workshop Wall

Among the more popular questions were:

  • Project Zombies! What are the challenges you have in your projects that just won’t die? And what can we all do about them?
  • What does an awesome team look like? And what can we all do to help teams be more awesome?
  • What’s holding your team back from being more collaborative?
  • What helps people collaborate?

Based on the results of these activities, there are many areas where we can improve our products. But the really interesting stuff was about improving teamwork, team dynamics, and culture.

Teams are pretty important to us, and it turns out they’re pretty important to our customers as well. The hassles participants described about teamwork resonated universally. It turns out, our customers are very switched on when it comes to ideas about improving collaboration and making teams rock.

Here are some sketchnotes that summarize the responses to four of the more popular questions for you to enjoy. Cool, right? If you were at Summit, you might recognize one of your own responses!

What project issues do our customers have?

Sketchnote with responses to the question: what project issues do our customers have?
Sketchnote – What project issues do our customers have?

Many of the responses to this question showed that the way we think can really affect getting work done well. People called out things like “fear of change,” “approval paralysis,” and “old ways of thinking.” It was also interesting to see that customers sometimes suffer from “too much process” and “not enough process.” Clearly, getting the right amount of process in place is hard.

What’s holding people back from collaborating?

Sketchnote of responses to the question: what holds people back from collaborating?
Sketchnote – What holds people back from collaborating?

What really stuck out to me about the responses we got to this question was how personal many of the answers were: “I’m new, so my idea doesn’t count,” and “I’m not sure it’s the right time to share.”

The great inhibitors to collaboration include fear, using incompatible tools, promoting competitive behavior, protecting reputation, and protecting the potential for individual success. Indeed, the response that got the most “likes” (or “sticky stars”) was: “I’m more valuable if I don’t share what I know.” This indicates that a truly agile collaborative mindset has a long way to go in mainstream work life.

What encourages people to collaborate?

Sketchnote of responses to the question: what helps people collaborate?
Sketchnote – What helps people collaborate?

So what do our customers think we can all do to help collaboration? There were definitely a lot of ideas about improving the tools and processes—giving everyone a role, good searchable knowledge at your fingertips, and so on—but what rang loud and clear was how important it is to have a shared supportive attitude: mutual respect, trust, fostering a passion to share, and celebrating the results.

This was so empowering and inspiring for everyone to see take shape on the wall. “Fail together” is my own personal favorite!

What are customers’ ideas for making teams awesome?

Sketchnote showing responses to the question: what are your ideas for making teams awesome?
Sketchnote – What are our customers’ ideas for making teams awesome?

And finally, the Workshop Wall wouldn’t be complete without asking: how can we all make teams more awesome? This drew the most ideas and answers, and became a hundred motivational posters rolled into one. We had everything from serious principles like “Stop a ‘them vs. us’ culture” and statements about accountability, to lighter ones like maintaining a sense of humour, letting IT buy shiny things, and smiling often.

Try it yourself!

The Workshop Wall worked really well as a fast, fun way to collaborate and generate a lot of ideas and conversations. Many of those who stopped by to write Post-it notes also took photos of the wall at various times and said they wanted to try something like this themselves.

So go ahead and give it a go at your own workplace. All you need is Post-it notes, markers, a large space, and some meaty questions. Get people thinking. And let us know how you go, we’d love to hear what your own Workshop Wall was like for you.

We let customers write all over our wall, and this...