I am going to open up with the following quote of asynchronous working:

Collaboration without the need for instant feedback

When speaking with a friend he gave me the above quote which packages the idea of asynchronous working beautifully. Thanks Rob.

Let's start with communication

The easiest way to understand asynchronous working is to start with asynchronous communication.

Asynchronous communication is sending a message and not expecting a reply straight away, this is the basis of most communication in the world today. Some examples are Email, Whatsapp, that family video you send to your nan over MMS because she hasn't got a smartphone yet.

The whole process of asynchronous communication is to allow the sender and reader to handle things in their own time, these are usually not time-sensitive things. For example if it was an emergency you would want to call them, or talk face to face, but the majority of interactions don't need to happen like this. It also gives senders and readers a better way to send of consume information with real thought, with synchronous communication you have to think on the spot, with asynchronous you are given space to think, research and articulate clearly.

In the future I will talk about this subject in detail, but for now let's move onto the main event.

Asynchronous communication applied to working

With asynchronous communication, it's all about giving people the flexibility to send or read communication in the best way for them, which often yields a better result for both parties. With this in mind, we just need to apply the same principle to the way we work.

Example - Ideation Workshop

You have been asked to organise an important discovery workshop with your team but these workshops always end up with blank stares, and running through a presentation of slides before you even start the ideation. So much of the session is taken up with questions or confusion, you are also usually presented ideas from the same one or two people while everyone else is left nodding in agreement, or not really paying attention. Let's change this up by approaching it with an async mindset.

Start by designing the workshop online in a whiteboarding tool. As a rough design you have sections for "Intro and Agenda Setting", "Resources and Information", "Questions and Comments" and "Ideation". If we break these sections down they might look like this:

Intro and Agenda Setting

Start by giving a summary of the expectations of the workshop, why it's important to be working on this topic right now, what the value is, and why the people contributing to the workshop are needed. Then frame the agenda of the workshop, how it's expected to be run and more importantly what outcome is being aimed for at the end of it.

Resources and Information

A collection of all the data related to the workshop should be captured here, the more the better. You could include slides but why not forgo that work and give everyone the information they need to come to their own conclusions, links to documents, conversations, or anything that gives them more context to be prepared for the later stages.

Questions and Comments

This is your first feedback stage, somewhere for your attendees to put down their thoughts and questions, giving you space to feedback to them. This section helps get aligned on everything needed before going through to the most exciting stage of ideation.


Now all the context is clear it's time to get ideas down, just a simple empty space with sticky notes. Attendees can use all the previous sections to help inform their ideas, and they can also view and comment on others, or even support them by giving them a beautiful +1.

You now have all the sections defined it's time to run it, with the example above you could run this synchronously...but why would you, this is your time to think async. Send out an email or message and give your team time to contribute without a meeting booked. This will take a bit of work to make sure they are reminded and managing their own time effectively, but the results will be impressive.

While everyone is contributing make sure to keep an eye on it and answer any questions, or encourage input from everyone. By keeping people engaged you will guarantee strong feedback from the entire team, as they have space to think and context to give them more insight.


The likely things you'll notice are an increase in ideas, contribution from more people (rather than the usual suspects) and a high level of alignment. All of this is subject to you giving enough context and guidance on the information of course.

You have also helped save people meeting time, increased their focus time, giving everyone a chance to share an equal voice and trained people in a valuable skill of time management.


This is just a glimpse and one example into asynchronous working, but these concepts can be applied to multiple different scenarios. As a key takeaway look at the next meeting or workshop you are putting together and think if that could be asynchronous instead. Let me know how you get on and I look forward to a world where people default to think async.