The Rise of Asynchronous Communication
Not too long ago, business communication meant one thing: synchronous. Whether it was a phone call, in-person meeting, or video conference, real-time communication was the name of the game. But in today's increasingly dispersed, digital workplaces, asynchronous communication is taking center stage.
What is asynchronous communication? Simply put, it's communication that doesn't happen in real time. Think email, messaging apps, discussion boards - tools that enable people to exchange information without having to be online at the exact same time.
The benefits of asynchronous communication are undeniable. Let's count just a few of the ways async empowers modern teams:
- Flexibility. With async communication, people can respond on their own time, working whenever and wherever they're most productive. This results in better work/life balance.
- Inclusivity. Async levels the playing field, giving introverts and remote team members an equal voice. Real-time meetings tend to favor the most vocal.
- Transparency. Conversations are documented, searchable records that keep everyone looped in. No more FOMO from missing a spur-of-the-moment call.
- Focus. Instead of sitting through endless meetings, people can asynchronously carve out blocks of heads-down time to get real work done.
- Thoughtfulness. Async communication encourages more deliberate, constructive conversations, without the pressure of live interactions.
It's clear that asynchronous communication unlocks productivity and innovation that would be impossible through synchronous channels alone. That's why smart leaders are embracing async workflows. According to Harvard Business Review, "The future belongs to asynchronous." I couldn't agree more. Async communication isn't just some passing fad - it's the inevitable evolution of how we collaborate in the digital age.
Popular Asynchronous Communication Tools
With the rise of asynchronous communication, a plethora of software tools have emerged to facilitate effective async workflows. Here are some of the most popular options:
Email: The old stalwart remains a go-to for many async conversations. While not as sophisticated as newer solutions, email is ubiquitous, straightforward, and gets the job done.
Slack: This team chat app is many a startup's async platform of choice. With channels, threads, and searchability, Slack keeps conversations organized and accessible.
Microsoft Teams: Teams combines chat, video meetings, file sharing and more in one hub for asynchronous and real-time teamwork. Adoption has skyrocketed with remote work.
Discussion Boards: Legacy forums may seem outdated, but modern sites like Discourse are purpose-built for productive async discussion and communal knowledge sharing.
Asana: A project management favorite, Asana enables async task coordination and long-form conversations via comments on projects and tasks.
Supernormal: This relative newcomer is a popular AI meeting notes tool. It joins your Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams meetings and takes detailed notes complete with a transcript, summary, and action items which ensures that people can still get the information they need from the meeting, even if they can't attend.
The options abound, but the common thread is that these tools meet the core needs of asynchronous teams: seamless communication, transparency, accountability, and organization. Armed with the right async technology, teams thrive in the flexible, inclusive future of work.
Keys to Effective Asynchronous Communication
Like any workflow change, adopting asynchronous communication comes with growing pains. Synchronous habits die hard. Many managers default to old ways of verbal-only collaboration. Employees feel pressure to respond instantly to messages at all hours. Simply deploying new software isn't enough to reap the benefits of async. Leading async teams takes a new approach.
Here are some best practices:
Set expectations upfront. Communicate guidelines for response timeframes and availability. Make it clear async is encouraged.
Think written communication first. Get key discussions and decisions in writing for transparency. Verbal follow-ups can come later.
Summarize conversations. Recap async dialogues along the way to keep everyone on the same page.
Share context proactively. Don't assume teammates have all the background needed - provide relevant info async.
Use statuses judiciously. Take care to not abuse your "away" or "busy" status as an excuse to ignore messages.
Stay organized. Use threads and labels to chunk conversations. Don't start new threads without checking for existing ones.
Enable notifications wisely. Only turn on notifications for urgent channels - keep FOMO under control.
Document decisions. Note conclusions in a searchable knowledge base for future reference.
Measure results, not activity. Track work output and team satisfaction, not vanity metrics like messages sent.
Async communication does require more forethought and discipline than spur-of-the-moment meetings. But sticking to these best practices prevents asyncs frustrations and unlocks substantial benefits for productivity, inclusion and work-life balance.
Async Communication Challenges
Particularly for longtime synchronous communicators, asynchronous collaboration can surface new pain points that require some thoughtful navigation:
Misaligned work styles. Not everyone embraces async workflows at the same pace. Be patient but persistent in nudging laggards along.
Message overload. Too many notifications and channels can quickly become overwhelming. Practice focus and be selective in where you tuned in.
Unclear ownership. Async messages can fall through the cracks without assigned action owners. Always clarify owners and timelines.
Loss of spontaneity. The freeflowing nature of real-time chat can get lost async. Replicate some of the energy with emojis and gifs.
Loneliness. Lack of face-to-face interactions can take an emotional toll on remote teams. Schedule regular video chats.
Messaging fragmentation. When teams use too many platforms, conversations get fragmented and scattered. Consolidate around one or two main tools.
Tech issues. Chat apps seem perpetually buggy. Set a hotkey for screenshots to capture issues. Keep tech support in the loop on problems.
Despite these challenges, the overcome benefits make asynchronous communication more than worth the effort for most teams. And as more tools purpose-built for async enter the market, popular pain points get solved.
Supernormal - Async Reimagined
One tool poised to improve asynchronous workflows is Supernormal. Founded by former leaders from Facebook, Instagram, and Github, Supernormal enables asynchronous communication through detailed meeting notes. Here's how it works: teams hold meetings as usual via video conference. The Supernormal assistant joins each meeting to listen, analyze, and take notes.
Using advanced AI, Supernormal captures key discussion points, decisions, action items, questions and more - all without any manual note-taking needed. After each meeting, Supernormal generates comprehensive executive-ready notes and shares them directly within your team's chat tool like Slack or Teams. The notes provide a searchable record of exactly what happened in the meeting - even for attendees who may have missed it. Anyone asynchronous to the live meeting stays fully looped in.
With Supernormal, meetings become systems of record. Everyone shares the same understanding of outcomes and next steps. No more asking "What did we decide?" or missing key actions because you couldn't attend. By automating detailed meeting notes, Supernormal solves a major pain point of asynchronous teams. The AI assistant keeps everyone aligned even if not every individual can attend a meeting, majorly decreasing meeting bloat and wasted time. Supernormal's asynchronous meeting notes help blend real-time and async communication seamlessly - unlocking productivity for hybrid and remote teams.
The Way Forward is Asynchronous
There you have it - a comprehensive look at the ascent of asynchronous communication and how tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Supernormal are enabling the async-first future of work. The benefits absolutely warrant investing the time to build async muscle within teams. With the right cultural and technological foundation, asynchronous practices unlock better inclusion, focus, transparency, and work-life balance. The way forward for high-performing distributed teams is asynchronous. The future of workplace communication has arrived.