5 Students Share Successful Remote Collaboration Strategies
Alumni from the Conrad Challenge reflect on how they succeeded from a distance
Registration is now open for the 2020-21 Conrad Challenge, a global innovation and entrepreneurship competition now in its 15th year. As with so many things, 2020 will be a year like no other for the Challenge, as the student teams (each team is composed of 2-5 students, ages 13-18, plus a coach) will mostly be working remotely and collaborating from a distance. Fortunately, the Challenge has a long history of teams collaborating from around the world and, given that the 2019-20 event wrapped up with the first-ever Virtual Innovation Summit in May, recent alumni gained perspectives on remote success.
In this piece, we are sharing insights from five students who participated in the 2019-20 Challenge, and who reflected on the experience along with the actions that led to success with remote collaboration.
New Delhi, India
“My advice would be to know your product inside out,” said Anand. “Start working on your product early and perfect your model. Try to do as many tests [as possible] to optimize it.”
Further, he shares, teams must be thinking about the direction of their business as a whole, not just the product. “Make sure that you are ready for the distribution plan, as well as a mission and vision. Keep revising these to make them optimal for your product.”
He added that although teams will be spread out during the pandemic, using apps like Zoom, FaceTime, or WhatsApp can keep students connected.
Anand also reminds young entrepreneurs that the process of critiquing one’s own work, iterating, and improving is essential. “Always question yourself as to why you have done something or how you have achieved something,” he says. “Remember, your product may be good but you can always make it better.”
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
“Stay on your schedule. When everyone is working at home and not really going anywhere it might seem like you have all the time in the world, but in actuality you don’t,” explains Caroline. Staying on track is key to preventing a rush at the end, which will result in diminished quality.
Caroline and her team collaborated remotely using Facebook and Google Doc. “With Facebook we would have a group chat set up so we could exchange ideas and…distribute work or send helpful links,” she shared, adding that her team would also have audio calls as a group through Facebook to work through ideas in real-time. Then, with Google Docs, they could collaboratively make updates while discussing.
Caroline is a proponent of effective teamwork, and understands the give-and-take involved in collaboration. “Find a happy medium, she says. “Find that balance between speaking out and sharing your ideas and taking a step back and listening to what everyone else wants to say. Be proud of your ideas and what you have to bring to the table, but also don’t let your ego get in the way of appreciating everyone else’s ideas because those really do hold a lot of value as well.”
Swampscott, Massachusetts, USA
“Even more important than growing as an entrepreneur and a businessperson is learning to grow as a teammate and a collaborator,” says Carter.
“If you’re openly communicating with your teammates, you can correctly divvy up work, set the right schedule, and make sure everyone is on the same page,” he adds. “Especially with the digital world we’re entering with the age of COVID, it is so crucial that you are being open with your teammates with all your planning because you won’t see them on a daily basis.”
In addition to conveying the importance of communication, Carter also reflected on the most challenging part of the remote collaboration. “The most challenging aspect of working remotely for the Conrad Challenge was definitely the filming of our final video pitch,” he determined. “Earlier in the year we made a pitch video and it worked out very smoothly. At this point we had our process down of writing a script, making a storyboard, and then executing it and editing, but there was definitely a wrench thrown in when we had to incorporate that aspect [that we were no longer able to meet in person].”
His team got creative to solve this challenge and, in the end, it may have turned out even better. “There is no one solution; think outside the box and make your video unique,” he says.
Sarah Pamela Fresco
Koronadal City, Philippines
When reflecting on the role of teamwork, Sarah explains that it’s about much more than being in the same physical space. “It is being ready as each other’s companions―spiritually, mentally, and emotionally,” she shares. Each member of the team is interconnected to the whole, and to one another.
In the year-long Challenge, Sarah explains, there will be times when students feel significant pressure. There may even be times when participants want to quit, or at least block out their peers. However, she notes the importance of remembering that teammates understand: “Your teammates know best all about what you’re going through, you have them as your partners,” she says.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Lindsey shares that the top lesson she learned from participating in the Challenge was the importance of reaching out for help.
“The Conrad Challenge really provided a lot of mentors and resources that you can take advantage of for your team and your project,” she says. “It is really important that you know those are accessible. It is really important to keep in mind that those are yours only if you reach out for them and reach out for help.”
Lindsey added that students may not get the help they expect―or even necessarily know what to expect―but that the support of mentors and experts is valuable in leading projects forward.
Learn more about the Conrad Challenge and register your team of 2-5 students by visiting conradchallenge.org