Everyone wants to be more connected and more collaborative. So – do we collaborate? Really collaborate? The power of the Internet allows friends to connect over Facebook, business colleagues to remain in touch over LinkedIn, and email, voice and video provides for richer connectedness. That’s true. Indeed, organisations like Cisco have developed sophisticated voice and video communication tools to allow people to connect in more meaningful and lifelike ways, wherever they are.
But my hypothesis is that we are still very far from understanding how to deeply and meaningfully collaborate. Very, very far. We say we are collaborative when we sit on a bunch of conference calls, or try and use an enterprise blog or Wiki (until we give up and go back to email) but that’s not collaborating.That’s just connecting.
True collaboration should involve:
- Shared data stores with defined and agreed IP management rules. I should be able to safely and securely access information from any of my colleagues in select groups (within and outside of my organisation) with ease. Firewalls and passwords are transparent to me. Boundaries are there, but invisible. Today, this is almost impossible.
- An etiquette for collaboration. When I post something in a colleague’s data ecosystem, there is an etiquette for collaboration that will give me confidence in when to expect a reply and in what form. Today, no such etiquette exists.
- Almost immediate construction, and decomposition, of collaborative teams. If we decide to form a collaborative group today, with the press of a button I should be able to construct the teams, the data stores, the IM channels, and the IP protocols. Today this is an incremental process that usually breaks down half way through, and people revert to email.
- Collaborative histories that can be easily and intuitively browsed. Who said what to whom, where, and when?
- Collaborative document management and construction. We should be able to build plans, documents and presentations truly collaboratively. Ever tried to build a PowerPoint deck as a group of 10? Almost impossible to do this in a truly collaborative manner.
And that’s just the start of the list!
Email is an archaic, point-to-point, hub and spoke outdates communication tool. It inhibits collaboration. The problem is, we really don’t have anything much better.
Mind you, tools are not the place to start. We need to define truly collaborative business models that we agree to. Once defined, the tool set will be easy.