On the changing nature of teamwork

ashwini asokan
3 min readAug 10, 2018


I read this fabulous piece this week on Medium.
‘Screen Time is changing our brain circuitry’: Maryanne Wolf unpacks how our brains behave when reading in print vs digital device. https://t.co/TUFp0bwEg2

“What I knew as a cognitive neuroscientist and developmental psychologist about the development of written language had begun to shift before my eyes and under my fingers and under everybody else’s, too”

I’ve been reflecting on this topic for months now in a very different context: teamwork & collaboration in the workspace. Here are few of my thoughts from months of experimenting.

My not so popular opinion: Conversations & teamwork on slack and other collaboration apps are very linear in nature. I saw plenty of miscommunication, people misunderstanding ideas tossed while believing that they actually got it, people working in isolation and then showing up with ideas they’d made up their minds on and having trouble letting it go. I saw quality of critical thinking dip heavily because of a lack of healthy space to argue, push, pull and dissect.

I’ve recently banned laptops, digital conversations during specific types of teamwork sessions, insisted on paper sketches, key takeaway summaries on paper that we put up around us and the results have been wonderful.

Source: https://t.co/TUFp0bwEg2

Maryanne makes a fabulous point in the article abt digital-only as possibly impeding/changing nature of critical thinking. When you’re talking to each other on slack & getting work and thinking done, we’re all talking at each other and hoping we’re all seeing the same picture. Each of us is most likely seeing a diff picture or angle of the concept we’re trying to paint together. Reading, writing, sketching in teams and staring at the same pieces of paper makes arguments seamless, in real-time. They create the space for exploring multiple angles, in a highly non-linear fashion and allow us all to shape and look at the same thing, together.

As a founder, manager, project leader you can push, pull, foster critical thinking in a shared space (including remote teams through zoom or hangouts or otherwise). You can ask why, how, what a 100 times over and bring the entire team along towards a goal. Bringing everyone along for the ride, especially in early stages of a project and at routine intervals after, allows you to get the team moving in the same direction, through ups and downs. Everyone is invested, everyone is forced to critically think together, separately and back together.

There is a place for Slack and Atlassian. They’re wonderful tools without which we can’t imagine the work we do today. There is a place for digital reads. They’re not meant to replace the ways that help ‘thinking fast, slow’ or what we call team work. Turn to Design thinking, Participatory Design and simple tools for ideation and brainstorm that help nurture the ability to think critically and build teams that work together. Do yourself and your teams a favor and create no laptop ‘war rooms’, ‘team workspaces’ where you get your teams to think routinely, without the distraction of the digital.



ashwini asokan

Founder CEO Mad Street Den, an AI and Automation startup. Musings on life, growth, AI, SaaS, Startups, Design.