5 Tech Tools We’re Loving for Connection, Collaboration and Learning

It’s clear that remote and blended work are here to stay for the long-term. Tech tools have made it possible to stay connected and productive, but we’re still uneasy about how well it can replicate or even improve upon in-person experiences.  Many teams have figured out the foundational set of tools for remote work: video conferencing, real-time chat, cloud/shared spaces for file storage, document collaboration, and yes…email. Well, maybe not email. As these are being used extensively, we’re all noticing the limitations that exist. New platforms are emerging and older ones are being used in new ways to improve collaboration, grow connections and expand learning. At Thrive at Work, we’re excited about five tools in particular. Some, we’ve been using regularly as a team and with our clients, and some we’re testing. We’d love to hear what tools you are exploring! 

  1. Remo to replicate an in-person experience while being virtual. Think: virtual conferences, team connections, networking and replicating the office environment.  
Remo’s virtual conference layout with small tables and a center stage

Remo is a new platform that’s getting closer to creating that “in-person” experience in a virtual/video environment. In an office, you might knock on someone’s door to chat, meet up for lunch in the cafeteria, hold an all staff meeting in the lobby, etc. Or, at a conference you’ll see keynote speakers, engage with table groups for discussion, attend breakout sessions, and even network at happy hours. Remo makes this possible by letting people signal their location via a virtual map of a conference, or office layout. People can join or be assigned to tables, offices, rooms, etc. and instantly be in a live video discussion. With Zoom, and other web-conferencing tools, they’re more like scheduled meetings. Remo allows people to connect, interact, and meet in ways that are more natural. We love this tool for its potential to engage, help people feel connected, and to encourage those informal conversations that grow culture. 

  1. Loom to send quick videos that save time and create clarity. Think: training, collaboration, and avoiding long obnoxious email chains. 
Loom’s speaker video layered over a screen for fast sharing and learning

Loom has been around for a few years, and many companies are using it to reduce email and to quickly train employees. Loom works by letting the user click a button at any time on their desktop or browser and begin recording themselves and/or the screen. For instance, you may want to explain a document that you’re working on and want to ask for some feedback. Or, you might want to create a quick training video to show someone how to perform an action in an application. We’re seeing the potential for improving the way people can experience learning programs. For example, an instructor can quickly create a Loom video and ask participants to research, synthesize and then respond back with their own Loom video with their findings. They can then hop on a live call together and use that time for the learning experiences that require more face-to-face interaction such as: reflection and feedback. I recently used Loom to send my team an explanation about a document that I was working on instead of a multi-paragraph email that likely would have required more clarification back and forth. 

  1. Mural for a virtual whiteboard. Think: brainstorming, mind mapping, designing concepts
Mural’s virtual whiteboard allows for creative brainstorming and freedom

Mural is a tool that lets us simulate using post-it-notes and index cards to quickly get ideas and then to organize them. This was such a huge part of our work with clients, and now we’ve found a tool that can bring this to life. We’re scratching the surface with it, but it appears Mural can do almost anything you would think of doing on a real whiteboard. In fact, you can do even more. Instead of just writing on one side of a post-it-note, you can click to add more information on the back of it, add comments, notes, and links. So, if you’re mapping out scenarios for a strategic plan, brainstorming a business model, or designing a new product or service, Mural lets you do this. It may take a little up front training with your group, but the payoff of being able to do real brainstorming and engaging everyone in the process is well worth it. 

  1. Trello for planning and organizing. Think: brainstorming, getting organized, staying aligned,  strategic planning
Trello’s lists and cards allow incredible flexibility and visibility

We’ve been using Trello to plan and organize just about anything since our company was founded 7 years ago. It’s set up like a Kanban, so you have an unlimited number of lists, and cards within each list. Lists can be used to indicate a phase/stage in a process, a category/topic, a group, or even a question that can be answered. An unlimited number of cards can be easily placed in any list (and dragged and dropped as things change) to create a plan, an org chart, a brainstorm, or even a CRM system. We use it with clients all the time in combination with Zoom to engage small and large groups to generate ideas and actions. We recently worked with a client and created breakouts with Zoom where each sub-team looked at an area of their strategic plan and brainstormed actions, questions and ideas for each. Each team quickly learned how to post their own cards, which engaged everyone in the process instead of having one person assigned to record the conversation. We produced just as many ideas in an hour that we could in an in-person meeting. 

  1. Microsoft Teams for staying in sync and collaborating.  Think: Real time chat, exchanging ideas, organizing all of your teams, accessing the right information at the right time and reducing email!
Microsoft Teams integrates realtime chat, team organization, and quick access to the content that matters to teams.

Microsoft Teams seems to be one of those tools that many organizations already have through their Office 365 license, but aren’t using to its full potential. It’s fabulous for intact teams and project teams because it allows employees to organize their conversations by team, group, or topic. These are also searchable so folks can find answers to questions that have already been resolved. How many times have we had to search through our inbox to find the email where the question was resolved? Or, even worse, resend an email to someone? Teams integrates a ton of applications like Planner, that can be used to quickly build project plans and to organize work (very similar to Trello). Teams also makes it easy to highlight important files or documents that employees might be working on as well. With a tool like Teams, we always suggest building agreements that clarify how the platform will be used, what behaviors are needed, how to hold each other accountable, how to offer support, and how to make changes to the agreements going forward. 

Get Started!

These are just a few of the many tools we’re excited about. We know new innovations are happening rapidly, so stay tuned! We’re helping clients bring the sociology to the technology, so that teams can build new skills, grow new behaviors, to successfully shift their work and build a digital culture. We’d love to hear what you’re working on and what technologies you’re using for collaboration, connection and learning. connect@thriveatworkteam.com

Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.