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Collaboration Tips for a successful Startup Weekend

Imagine having to create a business from the ground up within fifty-four hours. Now, imagine doing that with four people you just met hours ago. Needless to say, Startup Weekend, an UP Global program, is an intense experience. Alumni of the program understand that collaboration is necessary to get things done. Great collaboration, however, is necessary to having a good time while getting things done.

  • No matter how talented the members of your team are, they're still human and have a range of needs. There are functional needs like getting organized and having a plan, and there are also emotional needs like feeling included and being able to speak freely.

    If you ask participants about what great collaboration looks like, a lot will say that it's a blend of techniques and mindset. Techniques are important because they help focus the team on certain tasks. The mindset is important on an individual level so people go in being good collaborators.

    Our observations suggest four ideas that lead to a great collaborative environment for your team at Startup Weekend.

    Create Structure

  • Create Structure

    The limited time coupled with the sheer amount of work can overwhelm anyone. It's important to make sure that individual tasks aren't duplicative or tangential. Also, individual tasks tend to impact the idea across disciplines. Without coordination or at least communication, that can lead to alignment issues later down the line. Having structure will not only get the project done on time, but help the team work effectively. 

    Some things teams do to create structure:
    • Use Scrum and Kanban boards to plan projects.
    Brainstorm and mind map to organize ideas.
    Storyboard to map out the final presentation.

  • Establish trust

    What makes Startup Weekend so intense is expecting to accomplish so much with people you've just met. Studies have shown that a fatigued team with a history makes less errors than a rested team with new members. Since there isn't a lot of time to build a history, getting on the same page requires trust. Participants have to trust in their teammates' abilities as well as their feedback on their ideas. 

    Some things teams do to build trust quickly:
    • Take meals together.
    • Sit close to each other while working.
    • Use online collaboration tools after hours.

  • Build unity

    While teams form around an idea that one person conceived and pitched, everyone needs to buy into the vision. Despite all the coaching, resources and inspiration, some teams don't make it to the end or lose members along the way. One of the biggest reasons is that people had conflicting POVs on where the idea can go.

    Teams that were on the same page happened two ways:
    • Like-minded people rallied around the values behind the idea during the pitch phase.
    • Others talked through what aspects of the idea were exciting to them after the team formed.

  • Achieve flatness

    Whether formal or informal, every team forms a hierarchy of leadership. The key is to not let that hierarchy stop individuals from speaking up or having their voice heard. Creating an open team culture will get everyone engaged, motivated and have ownership of the idea. 

    Teams that created flatness used:
    Post-it® Notes to pose questions and pitch ideas,
    • Digital collaboration tools (Slack, Yammer) to share information,
    • Distributed ownership of idea based on expertise.

    Written by Nien Liu, strategist at Zeus Jones. He was sponsored by the Post-it® Brand to attend Startup Weekend in order to better understand how collaboration happens at this event.

productivity collaboration brainstorming business process notes team_dynamics