Unmasking the collaboration myth

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All those collaboration tools that have been developed over the years may not make your team more effective. Gartner has said that collaboration initiatives often fail because people hold some basic misconceptions about the collaborative process. What are those myths?

The right tools will make us collaborative
Gartner says that the process must come before the tools. Unless a company identifies the proper processes, and clearly delineates collaborative roles within the team, the collaboration won't take on a life of its own.

Collaboration is inherently good
Not necessarily. Companies must identify the goals that they want to achieve with collaboration, and clearly quantify those goals. Unless that happens first, collaborators will be working on team initiatives without understanding what they want to achieve, or why they are working with other people this way.

Collaborating takes extra time
Collaborating certainly can take extra time, but it doesn't need to. Collaboration must be baked into the end users' workflow, rather than imposed upon the end user as a new, separate process. Rather than becoming something extra to learn, it should be coded into their existing processes. One clear way to do that is by using tools with collaborative elements already built-in. If your word processor, software development system, or accounting software has collaborative tools directly in the menu, it makes it easier to work with other users without breaking your flow to go and use a separate tool.

People naturally will/will not collaborate
Collaboration - or the unwillingness to do so - is not a fundamental characteristic, Gartner argues. The willingness to work together or antipathy towards teams is a personal trait. "Most are somewhere in the middle and can be encouraged to collaborate under the right conditions," the firm says.

People instinctively know how to collaborate
Don't assume that people naturally know how to work together. Help them to bring a culture of collaboration to their work, so that everyone understands what the standard for collaboration is. That doesn't necessarily mean imposing specific rules, such as checking into the online message board every day at 4pm. But it does mean, for example, making it clear that there may be times of the day (or evening) when collaborators are not required to respond to each other.

What is clear from these myths is that many mistakes in collaboration initiatives stem from putting the cart before the horse. Defining goals, roles, and guidelines before buying the tools will help organizations to make their collaboration programs a success. This ebook may help people to further understand how to develop and hone the collaborative process.

And you, what do think about collaboration?

Stewart Baines

Photo: Rosemania/Wikimédia

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.