Collcaboration

The Fishbowl – Increasing Multi-Site Casual Collaboration

26 Feb , 2015  

How do you close the gap between two work locations separated by 1,275 miles? January 2015 we successfully completed a one year remodel project of 79,000 sq ft of office space. You can read more about it on the CableLabs blog. The remodel occurred on the heels of opening a new office and lab in Sunnyvale, CA, the fall of 2013.

Culture is über important to me and the company for which I work. We asked ourselves; what could we do to make the two work locations feel like one – or – at least bridge the gap and lessen the distance?

New idea – The “fishbowl”

When the Sunnyvale office opened, we set up a desktop video conference unit at each location creating a virtual helpdesk window. One unit is in a small office and the second unit is in the IT help desk team’s cubes. IT customers come up to the screen, see our IT folks at their desk, and get immediate help – the next best thing short of being in the same location.

The fishbowl   fishbowl2
(See more photos of the remodeled office space here.)

The fishbowl is the same idea, just more public and on a larger scale. The fishbowl is set up with larger video conferencing units at each site, in higher foot traffic locations in the office. The fishbowl video connection is on all the time, 24×7. No set up time required, no funky SIP address strings to enter on a handheld remote. It’s always on. I describe it as a portal or wormhole connecting the two offices.

Both sides of the fishbowl are located in a main break area of each office. It’s a natural gathering place for coffee, sodas and lunch. I’m constantly amazed at the different uses people find for it. They walk by, see someone on the other side, wave or stop and have a chat. It’s also easy to have a quick meeting if you don’t mind it happening out in the open with others walking by. Occasionally we’ll meet up with a electrician or wiring technician doing work on site – it’s so much easier to have a conversation over video than trying to explain some wiring concept or problem over the phone. And since the fishbowl is always on, you just walk up and use it. Now you hear the phrase, “lets meet up at the fishbowl.” This same idea is used to interconnect the two labs. Super useful when teams are working on projects and need to easily communicate and collaborate.

It’s not quite the same as being there but the fishbowl concept definitely helps bridge the gap, and increases the frequency and fidelity of communications between offices. I like to call it casual collaboration.

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1 Response

  1. Carol Ross says:

    Love this idea of casual collaboration and how technology can give us the feeling of being in one location! It’s interesting that by providing the capability and letting the users organically find the right use, new ways of using the technology emerge. Kudos!

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