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The 7 Aspects to Remote Working Agreements

By | #COVID19, Remote Working | No Comments

Through our experience working with remote, distributed teams across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India, we have learned that there are 7 aspects to creating a Team Working Agreement that most teams face.

  1. Toolkit: What tools will you use and for which purpose?
    From work reviews to socialising, there are myriad online tools to support day-to-day work. What activities do you need to support with online tools and how will you champion the use of those tools within your team?
  2. Etiquette: How do you create a respectful environment when you’re in a remote team?

Etiquette in business is about providing basic social guidelines and creating an environment where others feel comfortable and secure. It’s much easier to read intentions, emotions, and body language face-to-face; so consider how etiquette can help smooth over communication when the regular sensory cues aren’t available.

  1. Rituals: What can you all do together (online) to feel like a team?
    Maybe you have a ‘coffee break’ chat channel open to everybody for one hour every morning dedicated to casual chats. A large part of any company culture is built on routines. Think about what activities you can regularly do with your team to foster connection and belonging.
  2. Decision Making: How do you make decisions when you can’t be in the same room?If you’re not in the same location, it’s important that you’re able to clearly communicate the complexity of a problem or the decision that needs to be made. Whether you need a quick decision on the fly or group consensus from your team, decide upfront on what format to use for your various decision-making types.
  3. Task Management: How do you know if your team is being productive?

Using digital task and project management tools are great, but there needs to be a clear understanding of how they will be used. You can’t pop past somebody’s desk to get a status on their work or use a whiteboard to track tasks, so consider how you will clearly communicate your expectations and create visibility of work remotely.

  1. Information Sharing: How do you make sure everybody has access to the right information at the right time?It can impede your work if you don’t have access to important documents or information. Consider details such as naming conventions, file structures and being clear on where to store shared information to ensure your team always has the means to do their work.
  2. Stop Doing: What’s holding you and your team back from being more efficient?
    Consciously or unconsciously, we are all prone to distractions and picking up bad habits. What’s on your team’s to-don’t list? This list could include things like: don’t speak over one another in calls, don’t call someone out on a public forum or don’t hit ‘reply all’ on emails.

If we resolve the obvious but often overlooked challenges from the start, it saves time, energy and frustration further down the line. This enables the team to function better, allowing them to get better results.

We published an ebook available for download called – Remote Team Management, where we provide recipes and formulas on creating an effective Team Working Agreement with your remote team.

We also created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment, designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify team effectiveness.

Get in touch with us to make an appointment.

Behaviour, Not Culture, Eats Strategy For Breakfast

By | #COVID19, Team Culture | No Comments

Governments around the world have responded with great strategies to meet the COVID-19 threat. The culture that each leader has fostered and abided by has shaped their responses to the global pandemic—evidenced, for instance, by Donald Trump’s response compared to the response of Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen. And while every nation has responded to the pandemic in some way, all have struggled to execute their plans effectively within a short time period.

We have often been told that culture is the aligning force which makes change happen. That just aligning people to a true north and starting some corporate programs will create this. This myth has been spread by consultancies and ego-driven executives who spend a fortune in “building culture” to emulate nimble start-ups or case studies that may (or may not) be true for that company in that instance.

Google, a company often touted for its great culture, has identified team behaviours (also known as norms) as the key difference between highly effective teams and ones that are not. However, most managers are not trained in creating behaviours. While EQ training has increased, it’s not a tool that helps managers craft good behaviours in their teams even though it is critical for interpersonal relationships.

The top-down approach of enforcing company “behaviours” also does not work, as it means managers need to enforce compliance in behaviours that may not be right for their team and what they do, with the behaviours quickly losing adoption or superseded by the next idea.

Actions and behaviours are closely related to each other, often creating a virtuous cycle. Actions stem, from and reinforce behaviours; so if we promote the right behaviours we will get the right actions. How can you promote and foster the right behaviours within your team?

Through our experience in Culture and the Future of Work, we have worked with remote, distributed teams across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. We fervently believe that we can make the future of work, better than today.

When done right, remote working boosts overall effectiveness and provides businesses with tangible cost-saving advantages. However, if teams fail to adapt, companies run the risk of loss of productivity and revenue, and the collapse of company culture and employee engagement. It is evermore important to understand where your team is along their remote working journey, and to take the necessary steps to accomplish remote team maturity.

We have created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to benchmark remote working capabilities and quantify remote team effectiveness. Also available are our free guides to building team culture, The Culture Canvas and – Remote Team Management, where we provide overviews on how to promote better behaviours within teams as well as toolkits to support doing so.

We would love to hear your feedback and how we can help you strengthen your remote teams.

Get in touch with us,

Successful Remote Team Leaders

Tips for Successful Remote Team Leaders: Creating Working Agreements

By | #COVID19, Remote Working | No Comments

While we all stumble into remote working and somehow manage to get by, building and managing a distributed team is a daunting exercise. Misunderstandings and miscommunication can quickly damage team morale, and the workdays can feel like an endless stream of calls and messages.

Few people have been trained on how to lead distributed teams. It’s a new discipline that many of our natural human senses aren’t attuned to. All social shifts require adjustment (think of office space and office dynamics over the last 30 years), especially as new technology is incorporated into everyday life.

Making remote teams successful, isn’t just about mastering new tools. What really makes a team successful is how the team works together. When understanding how to lead remote teams much can be gained from insights into behavioural science (from great minds like Thaler, Kahneman &  Eyal), team psychology and effectiveness research (from powerhouses like Google), and change management processes (like ADKAR)—valuable resources for creating effective Team Working Agreements.

Team Working Agreements help team members understand how to work together to increase team effectiveness. In a distributed team’s world, a good working agreement covers a range of topics—from online etiquette to technology and decision making. However, they not only set expectations for how the team works together, but it’s also built around and promotes psychological safety.

Google went on a quest to build the perfect team (Project Aristotle) and found psychological safety to have the highest impact on team effectiveness. In fact, much research points to it being the greatest indicator of high-performing teams.

Developing psychological safety in a team requires clarity of decision-making processes, how information is shared, and the development of good behaviours between team members. By allowing teams to co-create these agreements, and by making “behaviour experiments” rather than “laws”, the team safely evolves its own rule-set that naturally gains consensus. This is done within a larger corporate culture, so the team leaders role is always to ensure alignment within the organisation.

While all of the theory and research is great, where do you actually start? 

We have created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to show how developed your team is along their remote working path. The assessment covers various different areas of work, is based on reported behaviours from each team member, and helps to quantify remote team effectiveness.

We also have a practical guide—called Me We Us—written by our practice experts who lead, manage and work with distributed teams daily. It’s a collection of actionable insights and tools to help you thrive while working with, and leading, remote teams.


In the book, we unpack 7 aspects all teams face in settling on a Team Working Agreement and the tools you can use to promote psychological safety—from etiquette and rituals to decision making and task management. Download your free copy of the book and use our templates and formulas designed to help you create effective working agreements for your remote team.

We would love to hear your feedback and how we can help you strengthen your remote teams. 

Get in touch with us,

Ethical Pricing and Corona Virus

By | #COVID19 | No Comments

by Nevo Hadas – Partner at DYDX


For the longest time, this concept of ethical pricing was never an issue I was concerned about, my mind automatically assumed maximizing profits and generally, in the fairly short to medium term (the shorter the term the better) was the context that pricing should be viewed in.

My understanding of risk was related to achieving the opportunity versus having a bigger systemic view i.e. transactional risk versus systemic risk. My mind was firmly in the Supply/Demand mindset, industrial age paradigms that leave us all slightly poorer as they assume the winner takes most.

So let’s pose a hypothetical question:
A hardware store normally sells handpumps at $10, after heavy rains and flooding in an area, they increase the price of handpumps to $20. Is this right? This question moves across the paradigms of ethics and business opportunity.

We know consumers hate to be taken advantage of, and many who need a pump may pay the $20 (assuming they can afford it, which is an equally serious issue) but may feel negatively about the hardware store afterwards and not frequent it again.

Now imagine the shop was selling respirators or facemasks?

My first response was based on supply/demand and externalities i.e. there are only so many pumps and there is so much demand ergo price increases due to externality causing demand. While we know that consumers will be angry and feel ripped off – they will pay because they need the pump now to avoid irreparable damage. However, on deeper reflection, there are many other value optimizing strategies that are MORE systemic than merely increasing price –  i.e. they create more benefit to ALL the parties involved.

The shop could, for instance, reduce the price but bundle waders and buckets to increase overall deal value and possibly margin mix. This would make customers feel like they are getting a good deal and that the shop is responsive to their needs, winning a longer-term loyalty. Another strategy could be to rent the hand-pumps out or provide a service to help people pump out their houses.

The net effect of a different view would mean more people would have pumped the water from their houses overall, as the finite supply of pumps means that those that have purchased the pumps would have excluded others from having a pump at all.

In the coronavirus time, what does this mean for how we distribute or utilize scarce resources?


Here is another thought experiment.

Most people are aware of the increasing wealth-gap being created. The 1% rapidly owning more of the world’s value due to the rising returns of capital vs productivity (i.e. your rate of return on your capital is rising more consistently and quickly than average wages). In many ways how we price financial services exacerbates this phenomenon. For example: when applying for a home loan the bank will give a lower mortgage rate to a richer family than a poorer one, even if it is for the same property.

We would answer that this is due to the risk of default i.e. poorer people have less money, therefore, are more likely to default. The inverse of you are charging poorer people more money therefore they are more likely to default also holds true. Furthermore, if the value is the same in both properties i.e. the underlying value of the asset provides sufficient security is the cost of default so significant that it justifies the higher pricing?

The same applies to managing retirement assets, the more money you have the less it costs, even in large institutions who are managing your money with thousands of other people i.e. your money makes no difference to their cost base. Banks and asset managers charge poorer people more because they can, not because they need to or because it will make them more money in the long run.

In fact, overcharging ensures that you destroy long term shareholder value because it makes you the target of disruption. Do people love banks – almost uniformly no. Do fintech startups want to spend the billions of free VC dollars attacking their business models? yup!

How are our private healthcare system insurance industry causing systemic damage with exclusionary pricing? What are the opportunities they are missing that could be more systemic?

Neil Gaiman, in his book Coraline, says: “Fairy tales aren’t true, fairy tales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

This, in some strange way, speaks to the hope that we all have of breaking the rules and constraints that have been thrust upon us by the limitations of our society’s past. A society grappling with a finite goods based paradigm, with limited infrastructure to share, with no access to real-time data and imperfect information flows.

While the digitisation age has not reached all corners of the globe equally, there is an opportunity that by rethinking how we price we can bring about greater inclusivity and accelerate change.

Video: DYDX Partner Nevo Hadas on – Design Thinking for Business

By | Courses, Design Thinking, Education | No Comments

What is Design Thinking?

DYDX partner Nevo Hadas breaks down what Design Thinking is and isn’t, how it works and how it could help organisations solve complex problems.

This talk was hosted at Red & Yellow’s Breakfast Session initiative, and designed to help educate businesses on design thinking approaches and help them figure out ways they can innovate and grow.

Nevo discusses what creativity actually is, the processes surrounding success (and failure), and shares a number of lessons around Design Thinking.


Nevo Hadas led the development of “The Culture Canvas”, an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours. The latest ebook on managing remote teams, “” is available as a free download and a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment, designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams.

Listen: DYDX Partner Templar Wales Talks to ChaiFM: Working From Home

By | Future of Work, In the news, Remote Working | No Comments

Many people have to suddenly adapt to working or studying from home. It’s a major shift in approach for some, that will require mastering the use of new tools and methods to make sure the work gets done.

What can you do to be more effective working from home? And what have you done to help your team work better together?

Smollan and DYDX win at the 2020 Bookmarks Awards

By | In the news, Research, Service Design | No Comments

The COVID-19 led to the collapse of eventing worldwide and South Africa was no exception. While most events have just been cancelled, IAB Bookmark Awards joined educational institutes, musicians and niche interest meetups by creating a whole new online experience in almost no time at all.

We proud to announce that, together with the team at Smollan, DYDX ‘took home’ two Bookmark Awards. The judging panels awarded a Silver Craft Award for Excellence in Research and a Gold Pixel for Emerging Digital Technology: The Internet of Things (IoT).

“We believe the best way to fight poverty and environmental issues is to build inclusive, profitable businesses; this changes the mindset from dependent to independent, from despondent to engaged,” says David Smollan, CEO of Smollan.

“The two Bookmarks showcase our commitment to being a business with a purpose that serves our clients and the communities we work in. It is also indicative of our commitment and the quality of work achieved as a team with DYDX,” adds Smollan.

Excellence in Research Bookmark

The Bookmark was awarded to DYDX for the development of the innovative, iterative research process that enabled the rapid discovery and testing of insights into the South African informal market.

“Despite the size of the informal market (35% of all retail sales) there is very little data available and most of the data and estimates are enormously contradictory. Therefore, we needed an innovative research plan that supported the company’s ideation and experimentation flexibly and quickly,” says Smollan.

Templar Wales, Partner at DYDX, says that a hackathon was hosted as part of the research process before the final ideation session. “After weeks of ideation and further research a prototype, ‘Gcwalisa’, was created,” says Wales.

“‘Gcwalisa’, meaning ‘Fill up’ in Zulu, is an IoT product dispenser that allows customers to buy everyday products in whatever amounts they can afford, using their own containers and thereby eliminating the need for single-use packaging,” Wales adds.

“The solution was a sustainable, scalable business with a positive social and environmental impact while gathering valuable, granular purchase data for the brands,” Wales concludes.

Excellence in Emerging Technologies Bookmark

Smollan and DYDX also received a Bookmark for ‘Gcwalisa’ in the Excellence in Emerging Technologies: The Internet of Things (IoT) category, in which atypical Internet devices (not phones or computers) are used to achieve marketing and communication goals.

Remote Working Hints & Tips

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As companies start implementing work from home policies, the key question that emerges is how to do this effectively. Teams that are used to face to face contact and meetings need to be taught new ways of working together to maintain effectiveness.

The good news is that work from home can often lead to an increase in productivity once these ways of working are mastered.

Through DYDX’s experience with working with companies across Europe and Africa on “future of work” and building team behaviours to support digitisation, there are a range of tips we can share.

The most important one is taking some time to set up new working agreements. This may seem arbitrary but changing how you work requires new agreements between people working together, to avoid unnecessary frustration and communication breakdowns. This is because a physical space provides a lot of social and spatial queues that we don’t have in virtual spaces or in remote working.

Nevo Hadas, Partner at DYDX, unpacks key areas that if not implemented successfully will lead to breakdowns.  The opportunity is for the team to discuss and agree, thereby improving teamwork while remote:


  1. Immediacy:  you are used to walking up to somebody to get an answer and now you sent them a message or an email and … nothing. Reaching an agreement regarding how long people will take to respond before you escalate and how to deal with urgent requests helps clear up a lot of frustration in the team.
  2. Shared Schedules:  just because you can’t see people being busy doesn’t mean they aren’t. Team members should be good at sharing calendars of when they are at meetings or working on a document/project and should not be disturbed or won’t respond. This helps everyone understand what availability is. This also means that you should check a member’s calendar before calling them, if it’s urgent, send them a message and wait for a response.
  3. Economise your time: You will have a lot more calls now that you are remote, but not everything needs to be one hour. Think about the meeting structures and agendas carefully and allocate shorter periods of time. You would be surprised what can be achieved in 15/20 minutes of focused conversation.
  4. Agree on working hours. While there is the legislated time of work but that does not convert as effectively into virtual work as you would think. Now that you don’t have to commute, don’t use that time instinctively for working or sleeping.  Develop a routine to use that time effectively, either exercising, reading or online study. While we may think that having calls/meetings for more hours is increasing productivity it’s actually not, there is a limit to how long you are effective in these mediums. Allocate time for deep-work (i.e. don’t disturb) versus meetings if possible.

Work from home

Video/Voice Call etiquette and format

Video or voice call etiquette is a real thing.  These elements always trip people up:

  1. Share the call location (i.e. dial-in number/links etc) on the meeting request
  2. Prepare the platform. If you don’t have the right software, download it before the meeting starts (see the tech section for more on that.)
  3. Have a good headset that is either plugged into your laptop or phone.
  4. Be in a quiet space.
  5. Mute when you aren’t speaking. Background noises can be very distracting.
  6. Have a clear agenda (just like a physical meeting).
  7. Use video if you have the bandwidth or at least for a couple of minutes to say hi, there is nothing wrong with doing voice only.
  8. Decide a meeting cut-off time i.e. if you haven’t joined the meeting in 10min, please don’t join late.
  9. Not all calls have to follow the same format. You can choose or create a variety of call formats that will increase productivity for the type of meeting. i.e. a decision-making forum could use individual voting (many online tools have this) and then a discussion.
  10. Checkin/checkout – what is done visually after a meeting by looking for discomfort in attendees needs to be done more consciously in virtual meetings. Take the time to ensure that everyone is on board by checking-in when closing a meeting.
  11. Distractions are a real challenge on calls and it is easy to lose people’s attention in key moments. Etiquette agreements can make this clear i.e. don’t respond to your emails while in the meeting.
  12. Having fun is still important. Create channels and spaces where people can share silly gifs or other jokes. Allow people to still enjoy communication but also agree on how to bring it back to the topic.

Sharing Information

How will you share information and progress, is there a common folder everyone can work in, is there a directory structure? While these are obvious to many people the need to have a common space that you can use increases with remote working.

Personal workspace

Take breaks throughout the day and recognise them as breaks, the fear is people will think you are slacking off but very few people actually work non-stop for 8 hours a day. Grab a coffee, take a walk, chat to a friend.

Different zones in the house may be useful, i.e. morning versus afternoon spaces, as long as they are quiet with low background noise or conference calls become a nightmare.


Choose tools that work for your teams i.e. don’t let IT dictate things that just don’t function for you. Experiment with different tools before deciding. Agree on the tools you will use and make sure everyone has them and knows how they work. If you have people who are new to remote working, dedicate some time to onboard them into how the new tools work. It only takes a few minutes but saves a lot of frustration.

Collaboration tools provide a new way of working together. Everything from slides to diagrams can now be done using these tools. You may find that you need more than one tool depending on what you are doing.

Here is our list of tools, though it may not be right for you:

  1. G-Suite (Google) – this is our basic workspace i.e. slides, docs, sheets (excel), storage, email all live here and allow us to collaborate on work done.
  2. Slack – this is our communication space. We have channels per project where teams discuss issues and share document links (the documents live in G-Suite)
  3. Asana – task management to ensure people are on track. Each person can update their own tasks which is a big plus and reduces unnecessary status calls and stand-ups.
  4. Lucid-chart – this is what we use for diagramming complex flows for designing working processes
  5. Pipefy – this is what we use for expense and invoice management and it is integrated with
  6. Xero – which we use for accounting.
  7. Zoom/Hangouts/Slack – is what we use for calls, but varying call quality may make us switch from time to time.


Even if you are highly experienced in working remotely, the practice of experimenting with new ways of working can improve your effectiveness and overall experience. Experiments don’t need to be anything big (e.g. today we will try a quick check-in before starting or a check-out at finishing), but do introduce some novelty and re-engage your team, it provides an active learning mindset that can build a team’s cohesiveness.

The most important factor for remote teams to be effective is not the productivity tools they choose, nor is it how smart they are. The most important factor for success in distributed teams is a common set of behaviours – an agreed team culture. Backed-up by research, our own experiences with global clients, and common sense, along with the Dutch government, we created the Culture Canvas: Making culture actionable to help you shape your team’s culture.

We have also created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to benchmark remote working capabilities and quantify team effectiveness, and a free ebook, – Remote Team Management, where we provide recipes and formulas on creating an effective Team Working Agreement with your remote team.

You can find it and download the free eBook here.

DYDX Partner, Nevo Hadas Discusses The Future of Productivity on 702

By | Automation, Future of Work, In the news, Productivity | No Comments

Nevo Hadas, a partner at DYDX, chatted with 702’s Nickolaus Bauer about how companies can rethink the fundamentals of productivity in the workplace for effective results from their employees. What are the implications of the automation and the future of work for South Africa?

Listen to the discussion here:

Key Takeouts:

  • The traditional understanding of being productive is sitting on a chair in an office for 8 hours. 
  • Our ideas of what is considered as ‘productivity’ fundamentally stem from Adam Smith’s economic theories; which are hundreds of years old. 
  • At the time of constructing his theories, (including that of the circular economy) Adam Smith lived with his mother, did not contribute to running a household and had little other responsibility than his work. 
  • What creates value in an economy – things like looking after kids and ageing parents, in fact, anything that we actually spend money on or invest our time in or that we find valuable as human beings – did not make it into Adam Smith’s idea of productivity. 
  • Unfortunately, a lot of theories like Adam Smith’s have taken hold and a lot of what we perceive as valuable in the workplace is based on these theories, versus a more holistic view of what a person does which creates value for the company and society as a whole. 
  • If you have a broader idea of what productivity is, you realise that a) no one has to be glued to a seat in order to be productive, and b) it does not have to be 8 hours. In fact, globally there’s a big shift toward flex time and flexible working. 
  • This also shifts how you can be productive. As technology takes hold, a lot of tasks we do will not be necessary in future – things like forwarding emails or sifting through basic data can be done by bots meaning people will have more time for making decisions or for high-level functions versus these basic tasks. 
  • A big risk we face in South Africa is that the types of jobs we are currently creating are not in line with the types of jobs we will need in future. The big challenge for us is international technology impacting South Africans with more entry-level white-collar and administrative jobs as a lot of tasks within these roles can be automated. It’s not that the jobs will be unnecessary, it’s simply that many tasks can be automated so the nature of these jobs will change. 
  • Most jobs don’t require eight hours a day so you can be more effective with your time if some of your tasks are automated. The same technology that is terrifying for an employee can be enabling for an entrepreneur because you can perform at higher productivity and functionality without a huge team’s support. 
  • Freedom and flexibility will increase, spilling into family lives giving us more time for a better work/life balance. 
  • In terms of digital transformation, it’s hard to know exactly where South Africa is compared to the rest of the world because there are different types of economies in the country. Through experience working with many global organisations around the world, on a global trend perspective, we are about at least 8 years behind.
  • A lot of this has to do with a lacking investment into infrastructure required to support a remote workforce. Data is expensive and businesses don’t provide data subsidies. There are still a lot of PCs instead of laptops for staff to work with. Networks are not easy or not possible to be accessed remotely. These and many factors are holding back companies in South Africa. 


Nevo is the founding partner of DYDX and has led the development of “The Culture Canvas”—an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours—as well as the latest ebook “Me.We.Us – Remote Team Management”, which is available for free download, and the 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment tool designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams. 

DyDx Partner Templar Wales talks Human Centered Design – Business Day TV

By | Human Centered Design, In the news | No Comments

DyDx partner Templar Wales appeared on The Big Small Business Show on Business TV, where he unpacked some of the basics that go into HCD thinking, and how businesses could be looking to innovate with this approach.

The Big Small Business Show aims to give viewers practical and down-to-earth business advice. The programme is tailor-made for entrepreneurs, giving great insight and tips to those who want to grow their ventures, as well as those who want to take the step towards entrepreneurship.