Collaboration is really important to me. So important that it defines probably 75% of the work I do for clients at the Bucket Brigade.
That 75% includes getting the people within organizations and businesses to communicate and collaborate in the most effective way(s) possible.
This means, in general, moving away from email for all of the reasons that you hate it. You get too much of it, it's not always relevant to you, the information your inbox holds is only available to you (no central repository for knowledge) and - my personal favorite - not everyone using it understands how email is supposed to work (see: The Oatmeal) .
Recently our development team went into heads down mode to knock out a couple big projects. This entailed being completely immersed in the projects we were working on and nothing else. We had to remove all distractions - including the feeling of needing to participate in side conversations in yammer and open atrium with our work mates, but still needed to be able to communicate with one another.
We generally use Skype for conference calls, so we just opened up a group chat and changed the notifications to only notify us when someone mentioned our name.
Over the past several weeks, Skype has become invaluable. We've found that we talk through problems a lot more because it lends itself to conversation more than a tool like Yammer does. The four of us tend to be in at least 3 different locations so it's great to stay in constant contact. It's a good place for a backchannel when we are on conference calls to make sure everything runs smoothly and stays on track. It also allows us to work separately and not be interrupted by each other unless it's an emergency. For things that aren't easily discussed over IM, we might voice/video chat for 30 seconds to get the gist of it before going back to working separately. It's affected our team in such a positive way that we are considering keeping the Skype chat around long-term and only using Yammer for company-wide communications.
How do you and your team work best together?