Collaboration as it is – Working together, alone – Part 7
The Xpragmatic View #193
March 17, 2012
by Marc Buyens, Xpragma
Collaboration is the participation of independent actors in mutual interactions to deliver a specific result, either chosen or not. The so-called collaboration is the result of the interactions that occur, but collaboration is not the purpose.
This is the last one in this short series about collaboration.
In our previous post, we identified "collaboration intent" as the fundamental variable for successful collaboration. Collaboration intent, the resultant of our perception of the risks, inconveniences and potential rewards that the collaboration will bring.
Of course, creating the organisational conditions that make that such collaboration intent is maximised is not a straightforward undertaking. Too many rules, roles and structures in today's organisations are roadblocks for creating such conditions.
However, that is a discussion that would lead us too far. So, let us assume that we have the right conditions for our collaboration intent. Will collaboration then happen seamlessly?
Unfortunately, it does not. At least, not always. After all, collaboration remains an act of a group of individuals and these individuals will all have their own individual "ability to collaborate".
If there is one fundamental flaw in nearly everything that is said or written about Enterprise 2.0, social business and other social enterprises, then it is this thinking about groups and not about individuals. In nearly every discourse, there is this underlying assumption that the workforce is like a set of communicating vessels where knowledge will automatically flow, be replicated and be absorbed by all that are interconnected. Give us more connectedness and we have a better enterprise.
Well, that is absolute nonsense.
It is not because a group consists of multiple individuals that we must start thinking in terms of averages. That only blurs our view on what makes things really work (or not).
We ourselves are old enough to have worked in a company, be it also large and geographically dispersed, with nonetheless a great, open spirit. All conditions for great collaboration intent were there. Never seen better. However, was it perfect?
Of course not! Even in such organisation, there were colleagues that were a real pain to work with. Nothing about social networking or social tools would have ever changed that. It is hard-wired.
Therefore, we must stop thinking about "social" as something that raises the "average" competence level. Mathematically, it does, of course. However, that improvement will not at all be distributed equally. Same as for Nielsen's "participation inequality" theory or the so-called "1% - 9% - 90%" rule, competence improvement will be distributed in a very unequal way.
Digital and networking and connectedness are great amplifiers and therefore, offer great opportunities for learning. However, it is not because all these posts, status messages and tweets get into your timeline that it makes you any better or smarter. It's not about what you get, but about what you do with it. And finally, that remains the decision of the individual and not of the group.
And most likely, it is also better so.
Collaboration is the participation of independent actors in mutual interactions to deliver a specific result, either chosen or not. The so-called collaboration is the outcome of the interactions that occur, initiated by the different participants for their own good reasons, but collaboration is not the purpose.
About Marc Buyens
Marc Buyens is analyst, management consultant and owner of Xpragma. He started Xpragma in 1999 after a 20+ years career in the IT sector. Today, he provides advice, training and mentoring services focusing on the intersection of technological evolution, organisational change and business strategy: a messy world of unfulfilled promises.
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