The office as occupied territory, and three rules for collaboration

Jevon today had an entertaining riff on positive vs pejorative connotations of “collaboration”.

However you look at it, whether it’s collaborating with the occupying regime or subversive collaboration among La Résistance (so to speak), I would argue that effective collaboration in an organization requires 3 things:

  1. Opportunities to collaborate.
  2. Are your people finding where they are most needed, when faced with a major challenge or just a simple question, how easy is it to even find someone who could help you out. Are some cube dwellers near the breaking point with stress while others bored silly?

  3. Willingness to collaborate.
  4. Just because your people could be collaborating, are they? As a rule, the best people are already too busy, and no doubt the monthly/quarterly/yearly targets are already made up and probably your request isn’t on there. Are the social bonds, and the social incentives in place to do the right thing when the opportunity arises vs guarding one’s fiefdom, playing politics or just catching the home on time?

  5. Efficiency of collaboration.
  6. Okay assuming people are actually working together, how quickly and efficiently can they get stuff done? How quickly/easily can you share knowledge, keep track of projects in order to delegate work?

Traditionally IT has focused on doing a really good job at #3 (not that there isn’t still room for improvement in this area alone). Meanwhile, the softer human elements of 1,2 has been left to the fuzzy world of HR.

In my mind Social Computing*, when it works, is about putting in place the tools and practices for accelerating all three of these conditions for collaboration.

Vive La Revolucion?


* a.k.a. “Enterprise2.0” though more an more I’m liking the term Social Computing better.

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