Collaboration – If It Were Easy We Would all do it – Well




picture-3I have said it before, as have many others, Enterprise 2.0 is not just about technology. As I have commented on, this was a common theme at this year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference. Indeed, if web-based collaboration were only about the technology, then any organization with even a modest IT budget would be doing it and doing it well.  But this is not the case.

As stated over and over,  its not about the technology – its about culture.  But perhaps we stuff far too many issues into that “box” labeled culture.  What exactly does it mean when we say Enterprise 2.0 is mostly about culture?

As you might expect it means many things. Culture is not only fundamental to but a multi-faceted aspect of Enterprise 2.0 execution. This post focuses on one of the aspects of culture – the basic approach used by a community to collaborate (e.g. networking, communication style, establishing trust and knowledge exchange). This aspect of culture is particularly relevant to Enterprise 2.0, because, as I have blogged about before, one of the primary end games of Enterprise 2.0 is collaboration. Thus, like Enterprise 2.0, collaboration is not just about technology.  If it were, we would all be doing it  – well. While Enterprise 2.0 technology can facilitate and support collaboration, the underlying collaborative environment has to be managed.  The degree of management is partially dependent on other aspects of culture – but I digress.  Back to collaboration itself.

One of the things we have to realize is
that there are many ways to collaborate. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a supportive culture in place, you must determine what needs to be shared through collaboration, and what the goal or focus of the collaborative effort is.

We at Innovation Architected, believe that there are three basic types of collaboration (Interpersonal, content/content, and procedural), and 5 basic models or goals (COP/I, content, process, project and goal-oriented).  I provided a web-based lecture on this several months ago, sponsored by Google. You can view that presentation here.

These ideas are further discussed in a great article in the December Harvard Business Review entitled, “Which Kind of Collaboration is Right for You?.”  You can download a free copy of the article.  One of my favorite insights in the article is the strong case it makes that collaboration can occur in a closed environment, in spite of the  “open transparency” mantra of Enterprise 2.0 zealots. The article addresses the need for incentives to attract collaborators – another favorite topic of mine, one steeped in the Knowledge Management best practices.

In another Harvard Business School paper,  best practices in orchestrating and managing collaboration in an outsourced, or extended enterprise setting are provided. The bottom line of this article, for me anyway, is that collaboration needs to be deliberately designed and managed in order to maximize effectiveness and the value of the outcome.

In my own
work as a knowledge management and innovation management consultant,  I know that there is not only corporate culture to consider, but also the personal approaches or personality types of the individuals in the community, to creative problem solving. Yes, there are many different personality types or inclinations to collaboration and innovation. One is not better than another, they are just different.  In fact, the different approaches are symbiotic and complementary. Best practices in innovation management indicate that as part of the management of collaboration you should ensure that a range of “collaboration personalities” are deliberately brought together to achieve higher quality output.

So while it is nice to think that Enterpirse 2.0 and collaboration are all about viral and organic growth, research and experience indicate that there is ample room for some control and management of the processes and systems used, as well as teh knowledge and content captured in the process. In deed we have built entire practices around services for innovation management, effective collaboration and knowledge management.

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