As I get together with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues here in California, I really appreciate all of the connecting and conversing we’ve done over the past two years, as our shared experiences ease the path to further collaboration. Working collaboratively and effectively is a challenge for all organizations and must be continuously renegotiated as conditions change. Collaboration is not the same as cooperation. Collaboration is working together and achieving a shared objective. Collaboration puts cooperation to the test, with outcomes, objectives and responsibilities; constrained by time, resources and priorities.
Here are some collected thoughts on collaboration from others:
“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” George Bernard Shaw
The pragmatic reality is that innovation happens at the intersection of learning and cultivating diverse connections. When you have diverse connections in a network, learning almost cannot not happen. Networks literally become learning disabled if the connections become too homophilous and without learning, no innovation is possible.
It is also important to point out that advocating Enterprise 2.0 / social collaboration isn’t necessarily the equivalent to denouncing all forms of Vertical Collaboration. Each have their value and their place for particular types of work. Advocating Enterprise 2.0 / social collaboration is the recognition that we’ve found something effective at filling in the knowledge gaps left by traditional Vertical Collaboration methods that prevent organizations from maximizing the capacity of their people. Thus, encouraging the use of capabilities and behaviors that fill those gaps – Web 2.0 / social media inspired methods proving to be effective for Horizontal Community Collaboration – will complement your traditional collaboration methods well.
Collaboration gets its power because it uses the energy of Assertiveness–ideas and real points of view, championed by people who care–and the energy of Cooperation–a willingness to make things work for all involved. From collaboration comes the best result, the idea or solution which is fashioned from everyone’s input and is better than what any one person could have come up with on her or his own.
Connections are not enough. Third threshold is true conversation. For connected thinking to occur, for both sides to find meaning in the interaction, participants must create a common context: What is it we are here to do? This takes time. Conversations cannot be hurried. Conversations cannot be tightly scripted and agenda based meetings separated from the practice of work. Knowledge work is talking and listening! The real challenge today is slowing down our thinking processes and increasing awareness of the thinking behind our actions and the assumptions behind our thinking.
Will we ever learn? We place new labels on the issue (it’s not KM anymore, now its collaboration); new products emerge (SharePoint: “it does everything”), and all too often forget the lessons of the past. We believe that the “new focus” and/or the new technology will deliver on the promise without requiring any strategy.