Lutz Gericke

Tele-Board - Supporting and Analyzing Creative Collaboration in Synchronous and Asynchronous Scenarios

This dissertation deals with creative collaboration over distances in synchronous (at the same time) and asynchronous (not at the same time) work settings. A globalized world puts an increasing pressure on today's companies. Opportunities arise from a business acting world-wide, but there are also challenges to face. The daily work across multiple locations using telephone or videoconferences is common practice for most employees of large companies. However, these distributed work settings are to a large extent limited to information exchange. With an increasing effort to develop innovations, an imbalance is created between multi-location collaboration going beyond information exchange and tools that enable collaboration that is as tangible as people are used to from traditional tools. Typically, whiteboards are a popular tool to sketch ideas and collect content in a rather informal way.

The project context is the research on tools and methods of design thinking, an innovation methodology toolbox that is relying on intense collaboration of multi-disciplinary teams. The space in which the collaboration process takes place is of special importance. Therefore, the practical goal of this dissertation was to develop a digital tool called 'Tele-Board' that abstracts from the physical representation of the medium whiteboard and thus allows for usage in a distributed work environment. Archiving of work processes using Tele-Board is realized in a very fine-granular fashion, easing documentation of creative collaboration processes. Furthermore, this accuracy and depth of the work protocol creates the possibility to analyze and evaluate group work with the help of the archived recording.

Besides evaluation of the universality and efficiency of the implementation, studies were taken out to validate the feasibility and usability of digital support of creative processes. Firstly, the applicability of the software to analyze distributed group work was investigated, and secondly the effectivity of the component 'History-Browser' for understanding of past work processes was examined. Additionally, the complete system was deployed at a large globally acting company. After over 2.5 years of active usage by hundreds of users, insights from interviews, usage statistics, and the results of a concluding survey can be presented as part of this dissertation. Studies of the subsystems serve as an evaluation of concepts and their feasibility and comprehensibility. Specifically at the example of the History-Browser, it was shown that understanding of decisions in creative work processes could be created with an appropriate tool. Non-participants can identify starting points for continued activity. With the help of the long-term study in a corporate context, advanced findings could be made. One of them is the significant difference of usage and acceptance between groups of people from the headquarter and at distant locations.

The flexibility of the Tele-Board system and its widespread adoption inspired continuing research activity. It is now adapted and used in the context of behavior psychotherapy in order to enhance the patient-doctor relationship and automate documentation. The theoretical foundation of the application design and its implementation and usage in practice show potential for further applications. Based on creative methods and dispersed locations, this dissertation makes a contribution as a combination of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration within one system and its implications on collaborative work settings.