Collaboration/Innovation/Community Software – The 7Cs for Success

Well I’ve been noodling [aka procrastinating] on this post awhile – given my recent interview with Inc. Magazine on selecting collaboration tools, though, I thought it was time…

For many of the organizations that I speak/work with regarding knowledge networks/communities of practice they have [or are planning on implementing] a collaboration software package with many slick bells and whistles but without a clear path and strategy for getting up and running – this often results in an empty knowledge landscape with little showing except for some bells and whistles strewn about.

Even in the CIO world it’s popular to say that collaboration and innovation isn’t about the software but what do you do in addition to buying software? 

The Iceberg in IT

The dilemma I frequently witness is what I call the ‘Iceberg in IT’ conundrum.  Someone decided that people needed to collaborate more and told IT to implement a package that enables collaboration.  While a good software package is certainly a required step, I prefer to put it near last instead of first. 

Using the admittedly cliche and ubiquitous iceberg metaphor above, social software is simply the visible thing that enables collaboration to happen.  When IT is told to purchase it when there is no strategy to generate adoption, it will feel cold and barren [sorry – couldn’t help it].  In order to truly affect how this can help people do their jobs there is a large amount of work that needs to done behind the scenes…hence the 7Cs of success:

  • Capturing:  the notion of collaboration is foreign in many organizations so people often need to be shown what potential is there if they were to collaborate.  We always visit different geographic locations and capture [via video, audio, memory stick, etc.] what people are working on so that we can determine common topics and have some seed material to begin populating the software system.
  • Connecting:  even software that’s designed to connect people will do little in that regard if left on its own.  People [especially when at the early phases] need some help connecting with one another – simple things like setting up bridge calls and facilitating conversations serve to build trust and awareness and provide nuggets of content that can be housed in the platform.
  • Combining: in a dispersed organization you’re bound to find bits and pieces of similar work living in a great many places.  Helping the users combine that information using the wiki feature of a platform, for example, will show users the efficiency in working together while training them on what in the world a ‘wiki’ is.
  • Contextualizing: the most effective collaboration initiatives will integrate members from an organization’s suppliers and customers and related academic institutions.  Translating that into compelling content that will make sense to your users will be critical in getting them to absorb and leverage it.
  • Confirming:  similar to above, if you’re getting knowledge from various sources, care must be taken to ensure that what’s being provided is accurate information so that it can be acted upon.
  • Circulating:  what good is the best information if no one knows about it?  The role of a community/network coordinator is essential in circulating news about what’s new, recent questions, etc.
  • Communicating: having someone dedicated to getting the word out about the success stories in your knowledge network will go a long way in generating interest, excitement and ,of course, additional funds that will be necessary to continue operations.

Having an effective Web 2.0 collaboration platform at the center of this activity certainly will make it much easier to coordinate but the software alone [today’s versions anyhow] will never replace the behind-the-scenes efforts required to start and sustain collaboration and innovation.

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