Jaimini Lakhani, OD Director, British Council, March 2018

“Synseer proved for us that it was possible for a global team across multiple time zones to reach decisions in a third of the time, with a third of the effort, compared to our traditional methods.”

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. The work spans over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year they reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall.

Like many international businesses, teams strive for increased collaboration and faster decision making in order to spend more time making greater impact. The two are often difficult to reconcile as collaboration typically slows decision-making yet without collaboration decisions may not fully reflect the diversity of input required.

The team using Synseer are leaders in a global community of practice, spread across multiple time zones from Asia, Africa and Europe

Whilst users found Synseer intuitive and engaging to use, they recognised the significant productivity benefits and ability to focus on key decisions. During trials of Synseer, the team found that they could work through business issues and reach decisions in a third of the time and effort compared to traditional methods which would include 1 or 2 live meetings by teleconference combined with multiple follow up email conversations. In one use-case, this enabled a new business workflow to be agreed and adopted much more quickly roughly freeing up 17 man-hours of time across 11 people.

Many business people now spend 85% of their time collaborating with others, think of the time this could free up on a large scale.

What was equally valuable for the team was the impact of Synseer on the collaborative process itself.

Collaboration typically conjures up images of everybody being involved in everything and struggling to keep up. In contrast, users found that with Synseer they could dip in and out at their convenience, using the Catch-Up function to stay in touch with the course of the discussion without having to read everything. They reported that they were able to choose the depth at which they engaged, setting their own priorities rather than attending a 2-hour meeting where only a few topics would be relevant. Some contributed just by voting on the key issues whilst others engaged deeply because the subject was a priority for them. Team members across disparate time zones were able to join in at their own convenience and pace accommodating their personal preferences to start early or work late.

In a reference to Synseer’s Virtual FacilitatorTM, the team felt that over time as individuals became more proficient this way of working could minimise the need for a real facilitator.

The senior leader of the team was able to check in after the discussion had been running for a few days and quickly identify how to improve the quality of the debate, making a coaching intervention as a result and improving engagement.

The British Council overall found the Synseer trial engaging and effective.  They are now exploring ways to broaden its use.  They are on the path towards faster, simpler, better decision-making with Synseer.