Should Collaboration Be More Selfish?

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A New Perspective

The word collaboration has special meaning these days. Companies want to enable more collaboration within their teams. The goal is to create better informed and more creative organizations that can better deliver on business objectives. This certainly seems to make sense. Good things often happen when people connect on a human level and are able to deliver the strategic thinking that often goes unspoken. But could it make sense for collaboration to be more selfish? More focused on what an individual gets from an interaction rather than what they deliver?

Current State

In a world where everyone is scheduled within an inch of their lives, and free time is elusive at best, there appears to be an underlying desire to find ways to simply get things done. At Haydle we think about this a lot, and have actually built the idea into our product by creating a cause and effect scenario, …ask a question, get an answer, take action.

An example of this idea is what we call the 3:00pm on a Friday scenario. We’ve all been there. The day has slipped away and an EOD deadline is looming. All we want to do is find a way to complete our task and avoid the negativity involved in a missed deadline and the disappointment of canceled personal events that occur as a result. In this scenario, we really need to collaborate with our peers, not to develop the next big idea but to complete a critical task that has measurable impact to the business.

Changing persepctives

Collaboration, like many business processes often suffers from attempts to overwhelm the problem. Big software, big deployments, and big costs always seem to be the knee jerk response to enterprise challenges. But are we finally entering a time where the best solutions are lightweight, easy to learn and focused on enabling action? Consider Stowe Boyd’s comments on the scale of social business solutions in the CMSWire article “What’s Wrong with Social Collaboration Tools? Everything”:

“There is a growing interest in tools that help people to get work done at a smaller social scale, rather than tools organized around coordinating the work of others, and focused on larger social scale.”

This realization has been a long time coming. Perhaps it’s human nature to try and over-solve a problem with complex solutions offering many functions. Certainly the software selling community loves nothing more than a big sale to a big client. But the reality is that our hyper-competitive marketplace, where informed decision making and fast action are required is forcing a change in perspective. How does the product solve my challenge? How quickly does it deploy? How long will it take me to learn how to use it? Will it give me actionable information? These are the questions that make sense now.

Conclusion – Be a little selfish

There are many components to the collaborative enterprise, i.e. group chat, discussion boards, wikis, idea-tion spaces and Q&A are only some of the possibilities. Some of these functions have immediate impact, some are longer term. All are relevant. But the bottom line is that companies need to seriously think about their goal set. Is “go big or go home” really the approach that makes an organization more nimble? There is much evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it makes more sense to enable employees to be a bit selfish and avoid software that adds to their workloads and slows their efforts.  By resisting the instinct to hit a home run, leadership can pursue a less expensive and perhaps more informative path that will allow them to understand how social and collaborative tools can actually impact productivity and employee engagement.