Technologies for collaboration and cooperation

Whether we’re working or learning, how we communicate is a key part of everything we do. Some web tools hinder communication while others may enable it. Last year, in communication and working together, I looked at a communities & networks model by Lilia Efimova:

One of the things I came up when playing with different ideas was to position teams, communities and networks in respect to the most prevalent forms of communication in each case (in all cases the other forms of communication are there as well, but are not at the core of it).

I find the model useful to look at what kinds of social tools are most suitable for the type of collaboration or cooperation we’re trying to foster. For instance, there is a big difference between Sharepoint and Facebook, though both enable some kind of collaboration. Structured, goal-oriented collaboration is typical of what happens inside the firewall in a controlled access environment. Informal, opportunity-drive (serendipitous) collaboration is more like the free-for-all of an event like #lrnchat. Communities of practice are a mix of both.

My experience is that there is no platform that covers the entire spectrum. Open networking environments lack the tools needed for project work while enterprise collaboration systems lack openness and flexibility. There is an opportunity for platforms like Yammer & Socialcast or Brainpark to bridge the structured with the informal. Three smaller pieces loosely joined seems to be a better approach for collaborative work/learning at this time rather than a unified platform. That may change as collaboration technologies mature but for now any large organization should be looking at all three.

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