Collaborate, Create, Communicate

No travel required… really?

Yesterday, as I boarded a flight to begin my 12th duty travel of the year, a thought crossed my mind… Do we do enough to limit our travels? Do we use the tools, the technologies in our hands, to reduce the number of travels we ourselves do but still allow knowledge to travel? Do we really need to attend all the meetings we attend? Are we surprised when we meet colleagues from our centers in the same meetings and say “ahh… I did not know you would be here too!”

I am sure I am not alone with these questions, but let’s face it, there are some cases where online tools just don’t cut it. Some issues need to be discussed face-to-face, some gatherings are such a source of energy (for example, the ShareFair in Rome, the ShareFair in Addis, and the one in Cali) that I would not give them up! Although many who could not travel to attend these events were still able to follow the various activities, thanks to, for example, our use of social media reporting at the Addis Fair.

Yearly meetings of our communities such as the recent IT managers meeting need to be face-to-face. Such communities need to be kept alive with personal contacts to support a whole year of transactions online – even our own ICT-KM team came together  last week in Rome for our yearly “summary and planning” retreat.  However, I can think of a few occasions this year when I should have asked myself: Do I really need to attend that meeting, that workshop? Or is this something I can do using an online tool? Do I need to cross oceans to give a presentation? Or would a dimdim, or a GoTomeeting session be sufficient?

ICT tools

The ICT-KM Program promotes and supports the use of ICT tools to enable distributed teams to work more efficiently and effectively with each other, and to make knowledge travel. We launched a whole site to promote and support online tools — visit our CGXchange at http://www.cgxchange.org/ or our Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. ICT tools also help us do a lot of work on pathways for making knowledge travel.

Think about it! Sometimes, a presentation could be delivered through a webinar; a meeting could be held via video conferencing; and writing a project document could just as easily be done using some collaborative, online writing tools.

Early on in our life as a Program, we authored a “No Travel Required” booklet, along with Nancy White of FullCirc Associates and the Gender & Diversity Program of the CGIAR, and since then we have done much more to promote the use of social media tools to support the work of distributed teams.

ICT tools in action

My latest personal example? Yesterday, I was working with Antonella Pastore on the presentation that I’m due to deliver here in Lima, but I had to leave my Rome office and work from home, even though we still needed to work on it together. Having her draft the presentation and send it to me for my comments would simply not cut it. But the deadline was looming, with only a few hours to my flight to Peru. And  I needed it NOW, NOW! (just for a change :)) So we turned on Gtalk (love its voice quality) so we  could talk while she shared the screen on Skype to show me the various slides, and used Google Docs to share text. And two hours later (in the time it would have taken me to get to the office and back during rush hour) we had put together a good skeleton presentation. Mind you, she did work half way through the night (great trooper that she is!) to add the finishing touches. But when my alarm went off at 4:30 am, I was able to download the presentation, ready for my travel.

So, the next time you have a task, a project, a presentation … visit the toolkit, or check out our CGXchange site, ask us at cgxchange[at]cgiar.org for ideas — there may be a tool that could help you avoid that extra trip that you really do not want to take, but still allow your knowledge to travel.

As I start compiling my personal commitments for the new year (an annual tradition), let me share the first one… I will be more critical when it comes to asking myself and my team members: Do you really need to travel?

As for myself, I want to do better. I owe it to myself, my family, Friends, the environment….The technology is there, so let’s use it!

What do you think? Do you really use the tools to the maximum?