Squared Online project and lessons from working in a virtual group

I have just completed Module Two: Think Commercial of Google’s Squared Online course, where I learnt about the rise of digital and how some businesses are harnessing technology to disrupt traditional businesses (think Airbnb and how they are disrupting travel agents, hotels, classified ads etc). This module was definitely a step-up from the first module in terms of complexity and workload.

Students were put into groups and we had to complete our first group project – to produce an online business idea in the style of a presentation with an audio voice-over. Initially my group had seven people but by the first couple of emails two had dropped out of the course, leaving us with five. One member of our group was rather elusive and didn’t attend the first or second Google Hangout and, to be honest, we had doubts that they were going to contribute at all. Luckily they did make the third hangout and turned out to be a valuable member of the group.

We will only receive our grades for the project by 7 November so I can’t tell you how we did. I do believe we have a strong product and our pitch was really good so fingers crossed for a good mark!

Lessons learnt from working in a virtual group

  • You need someone to step up as project manager to coordinate meetings (via Skype/Hangout or even in person if you are able to).
  • Assign action points after each meeting and summarise what was discussed in a follow-up email.
  • Use collaborative working tools such as Google Drive or even the group forum in the Squared Online campus so that people can work, edit and feedback on the go.
  • Set deadlines for each stage of the process so that there is always a goal to work towards.
  • Allow the team to feedback on the final presentation and give enough time to edit if needed before the project deadline.
  • Be realistic – everyone in our team works full time and has responsibilities outside of their jobs so be realistic about what can be achieved in the time that you have.
  • Quality over aesthetics – everyone wants to have a sleek, professional looking presentation but it’s more important that the business idea is actually viable so spend more time on fine tuning your idea rather than designing slides and graphics.
  • Be polite and be a team player – it’s important that everyone contributes and pulls their weight. Sometimes group members may disagree on something, which is perfectly normal, but the key is to be polite and constructive – not destructive.

This may be an online course but it’s designed to reflect real life, hence why we are put into groups with people who live in different countries. It forces you to find ways of working together and to overcome challenges such as time differences, strong personalities, different cultures and juggling other work and life commitments with meeting a project deadline. Luckily I have a great project group and I’m already looking forward to working with them on the next project