Collaboration Online: Where does it add value?

Does collaboration need the use of technology at all? Over the last months I have been interviewing organisations that have been collaborating in some pretty interesting ways. And they have all focused on face to face collaboration, not on the use of digital technologies. I am wondering how the increased focus on collaboration and the rise of ubiquity impact on one another.

The organisations I have been interviewing for my book were all impacted by the Christchurch earthquakes. Collaboration, following the quakes, came in many forms. But digital collaboration has not been prevalent. The greatest use mentioned was of email, intranets and facebook. I know there are some amazing digital tools emerging but are people really using them? Is it simply that during times of natural disaster the default setting is face to face and it doesn’t build from there?

One of the books I have read as part of my research on collaboration has been The Collaboration Imperative by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese, from Cisco. It is full of interesting information form two people experienced in collaborative endeavour. The authors focus on the importance of culture, process and technology as factors that enable collaboration to thrive. Is it that technology is only an important factor in companies that have a strong online interface? Or in some schools that are technologically focused?

In my own work I collaborate using online tools such as googledocs, todaysmeet, and skype. I have a range of other tools at my fingertips. The tool I think has most promise is Loomio,  free and open source software for anyone, anywhere, to participate in decisions that affect them. But I have yet to see examples of deep engagement with online collaborative tools. Is it just that my case studies are in Christchurch? Do you have some really powerful business examples where collaboration has been enhanced in ways that could not have been achieved without technology? And where you don’t have a vested interest in promoting that product? In my last post I talked about ubiquity being the biggest trend for 2014 but I think there is an opportunity for ubiquity, collaboration and business to interact in daily practice.

I’m interested in digging below hype to user reality. I’m interested in the story rather than the tool. And I’m interested in how the technology can create a ‘third space’ for collaboration, enabling collective wisdom in ways that would not have been possible without technology.


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