This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Collaboration defined … but what does it look like?

Collaboration with Henry T.  2011 (WIP)

Ephraim Freed at ThoughtFarmer has a piece on What "collaboration" really means

The word “collabration” is so heavily over-used and over-hyped it’s becoming meaningless. People refer to all social software within a company as “collaboration,” and this causes confusion.

And James Dellow followed that up today with his own thoughts about collaboration, Collaboration is simply working with, together where he focuses on the etymology of the "co-" words as having a common root of "with, together".  And the "labor" part is pretty obvious.

These definitions are great.  But there is a piece missing for a lot of organizations: what does this look like in practice? What behavior would you see? It's difficult to give a single description because it depends on the context.

One example that I heard from Greg Howell at the Lean Software & Systems Conference in May was: "Real collaboration happens when we agree to move money across boundaries." 

I think there may be something to the idea of people working across boundaries - even when money isn't the concern. Those boundaries might be organizational, or they could be geographic or cultural as well. Interesting.

Another direction is that we see people working together without expecting to be directly "repaid" the next time a need arises. This happens in cultures where "pay it forward" is the norm. If not, people quickly grow tired of always being the source of help, without getting help when I need it from other places in the organization.

This feels like a different version of the discussion of What is your evidence of knowledge management? that ran last year.

So, if you hear someone say that their organization is great at collaboration, what behaviors do you expect to see?  If they say they are struggling with collaboration, what behaviors are missing? What is happening instead?  And then there is that last question - maybe this should be first - why is collaboration important to you?

[Photo: "Collaboration with Henry T. 2011 (WIP)" by Imajica Amadoro]

Engagement alone doesn't help

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