5 Key Benefits of Asynchronous Collaboration

Illustration by Yin Weihung

Drawing from my experience of building Candor, a fully distributed company — I’m sharing why asynchronous collaboration promotes thoughtful contributions and increases productivity, alignment, and decision-making velocity in teams.

Here is a quick definition of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.

What is asynchronous collaboration?
Asynchronous collaboration is when you send a message without expecting an immediate response. For example, Email, Messaging Apps.

What is synchronous collaboration?
Synchronous collaboration is when you send a message and the recipient processes the information and responds immediately. For example, in-person meetings, zoom or skype calls, phone calls.

When you switch to asynchronous collaboration, you write things up vs. chatting it down. Writing clears your thinking. You get clarity in your viewpoints. You take the time to write a thoughtful response. Ultimately, writing things up results in less miscommunication, fewer back-and-forth, and productive discussions.

Benefits of collaborating asynchronously:

  1. Synchronous collaboration is ineffective
    A traditional discussion starts with a presentation. Somebody in the meeting starts a PowerPoint presentation, some type of slide show. In PowerPoint presentations, we get very little information; we get bullet points. Thus, discussions need to happen synchronously with the presenter walking us through the material, which leads to a lot of interruptions with clarification questions, and ultimately, less productive discussion.
  2. Synchronous collaboration produces quantity vs. quality of inputs
    Even when conversations stay on topic, everything still requires an immediate response. With synchronous collaboration, there is no breathing room to take a step back, think about what is being discussed, and follow up on it later.
  3. Loud voices dominate the discussions
    You’ve probably noticed in discussions that a few people can dominate the discussion. The result is a lot of inputs from a few people, and the rest feel unheard, undervalued, which reduces trust and alignment, and ultimately slows the decision-making velocity.
  4. Decision-making transparency
    When a team is small, everyone is included in the discussion and know what happened and what’s happening next. As the team grows, people get left off meeting invites, and more conversations happen in private channels. This creates fragmented silos of inaccessible information locked and hidden in apps or lost because they didn’t get documented in the process compared to asynchronous collaborations that are self-documented.
  5. Wider Team Alignment
    As the company continues to grow, getting employees at all levels and in all departments on the same page often poses a difficult problem. Messages get ignored or diluted and obscured as they pass from person to person and team to team. Thus, the bigger challenge, once the meeting group finalizes the decision, is getting that decision to spread among the wider team.

Asynchronous collaboration promotes thoughtful contributions and increases productivity, alignment, and decision-making velocity in teams.

We believe that embracing asynchronous collaboration is key in making distributed teams work. Try it today.

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