August 19, 2021 Reimagining Collaboration in the Post-COVID World of Work

Each episode of the Uprisor podcast bring you perspectives on the freelance revolution, technology, and the future of work. Today, Topcoder VP Clinton Bonner interviews Phil Simon, collaboration tech expert and author.

The two focus on topics covered in Phil’s newest book, “Reimagining Collaboration: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and the Post-COVID World of Work,” including the problem with decentralized communications, the power of using a hub and spoke model, and what to look for when hiring in a collaborative environment. Enjoy the full episode and highlights below.

Too Much Email, Too Much Jargon

Clinton and Phil start things off with a discussion of the organizational problem Phil is trying to solve in his latest book: too much email, too much jargon. While the idea for Phil’s book was germinating before COVID-19, the global pandemic accelerated his progress. In March 2020, the world suddenly had to rely on virtual interactions for work, education, medicine, and everything in between–but few were (or are) doing so efficiently. 

As a proponent of collaboration hubs like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Workspace, and Slack, Phil knew they could solve a host of internal and external communication problems for organizations. And while some teams had already implemented the tools, many were failing to unleash their full power. Rather than point users to a how-to like “Slack for Dummies,” he recognized the need for a more conceptual book that explored how collaboration tools will be critical to organizational success in the future. 

Why A hub and Spoke model is smart

Next, the two delve into the advantages collaboration hubs provide over standard communication channels. Phil describes the ideal model: running team communication through a central hub and connecting relevant third-party apps (spokes) directly to the hub to create a truly collaborative environment. When used correctly, this can:

  • Capture institutional knowledge
  • Mitigate silos and support greater transparency
  • Provides valuable insight into how employees work

In Phil’s experience, many teams haven’t implemented collaboration hubs properly. Instead of reaping these benefits, organizations are using the tools as email 2.0. Sending and receiving messages isn’t enough. Instead of simultaneously sifting through messages, checking a Google Doc for updates, and waiting for a DocuSign alert, collaboration hubs allow everything to flow through one centralized platform.

“Overall it’s a more cohesive, less overwhelming way to work, because you spend less time multitasking.” —Phil Simon

What it Means for Remote Workforces

Wrapping up, Clinton asks Phil about the most necessary skills for remote and freelance workers in 2021. His top three were:

  1. Willingness to adapt. If you used Microsoft Teams in your last gig but your new organization uses Slack, you need to learn the new technology. 
  2. Ability to read the room. You may not have the opportunity for face-to-face interactions when hiring a remote worker, so individuals must be perceptive in the virtual space.
  3. Clear communication. Leave the chatspeak at the door. Not all communication will be synchronous, so clear, consistent written communication is vital to the integrity of your knowledge base.

Phil points to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and an article by LinkedIn Economic Research Department as signs of an inversion: employees now want their work lives to revolve around their personal lives instead of the other way around. With this in mind, he believes companies that pivot to a collaborative hub-and-spokes model will fare better in the long-term. 

Thank-you to Phil for joining us to share to discuss how collaboration and communication is changing. For more from Phil, check out his podcast, Conversations About Collaboration, and as always, check out Uprisor for more great future of work insights.

“It’s going to be a vastly different world with hubs and spokes, and the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you’ll be able to succeed in it.” – Phil Simon

Annika Nagy


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