What makes for effective teams when much or all of their interaction is remote?

To help answer that, we reached out to Anita Williams Woolley, an associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. Woolley has studied best practices for distributed teams, with her research focused on collective intelligence — which she defines as “the ability of a group to work together to solve a wide range of problems” — and online collaboration.  

One key finding from Woolley’s research on remote teams: The most effective ones tend to communicate in patterns of “burstiness,” short periods between focused work where team members can synchronously message one another, according to a pair of studies in the Journal of the Academy of Management that she co-authored.

Here is a transcript of recent conversation with Woolley about what that looks like and how to implement it, lightly edited for clarity:

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