I opened my RSS Reader today and read a couple of articles in relation to collaboration, how it differs to emergence, and whether a collaborative culture is a pre-requisite for companies to use social tools.
If you want a summary of the essence of this post read, Enterprise 2.0 culture.
Thomas Vanderwal illustrates that collaboration is about individuals coming together to contribute their bit to an object, “…but it done so with everybody working together to build one understanding.”
The following gets to the heart of it:
“The depth and of understanding is flattened - if the object is a picture of a sunset, once it is annotated as being a sunset there is no value in many others making the same statement. Quite often a wiki page on a subject is used as an example of a collaborative effort.”
The value and aim:
“The collaborative understanding has value as it allows for capturing consensus and usually aims at completeness.”
A collective is where “the individual’s voices and annotations are held separate as each individual is working as an individual.”
The following gets to the heart of it:
“The individuals annotations and contributions can be aggregated or collected (a helpful connection is the collective is based on collecting) and surfaced as an aggregate.”
The Value and aim:
“The ability for anybody and everybody to tag and annotate and object and have their perspective captured is a very strong value for each individual who has hopes of refinding the object in their own perspective and context, as well as having others whom have similar understanding find the same object.”
The above is in relation to social bookmarking and folksonomies, but anything can be tagged. A blogosphere can be examined by tags where people are writing their own individual stuff, but in aggregate, perhaps by a tag cloud, we can see emerging patterns of things that are being talked about a lot or a little, and this analysis can bring like people together, and help with decision making.
This succinct difference I get is, collaboration is everyone adding a perspective to the same object, whereas a collective is acting on their own, but when we aggregate the collective information we get value out of seeing potential emerging patterns and the value of serendipity and discovery such as browsing tags or users, or searching to see similar stuff…plus we act like a hive where we do some gardening on tag terms evolving a less amibguous and tidy folksonomy, acting like there is a group agenda when really there isn’t, it’s moreso a collective intelligence.
Michael Indinopulos states that, “Culture is a destination on the collaboration journey, not a prerequisite for taking the first step.”
He goes on to say that non-collaborative cultures may be introduced to a collaborative social tool such as a wiki, as a way to get things done, “…to streamline and simplify existing business interactions within existing organizational silos.”
From using a social tool the culture may begin to manifest or grow:
“What tends to happen then, often quite organically, is that the members of the wiki start interacting in new and different ways enabled by the wiki. Then the wiki is discovered by colleagues in other groups who work with participants of the wiki and want to be connected to the network. As they join in, the wiki starts generating new interaction patterns and norms that cut across organizational silos. Voila! You now have cultural change, as workers collaborate in new ways with their colleagues across organizational silos.”
He has described in an earlier post ( which I covered), the above scenario demonstrating an in-the-flow process of use of a wiki (social tools)…this means using social tools to complement and perhaps to substitute currents tools that are used to get things done.
What is harder is above-the-flow where in indeed we need a social culture as this involves people sharing personal insight, ie. participating and contributing your experiences, thoughts, opinions, reviews (thinking out loud, work in progress). All this stuff is related to your job experience, but in the end if you don’t participate in the Above-the-Flow scenario, you can still get your tasks done.
This means Above-the-Flow really requires a social organisational culture, and we all know the benefits of sharing personal know-how…we get to tap into the expertise of the workplace, a kind of collective intelligence or hive mind.
This is synergistic, in that once you have an Above-the-Flow culture, this Above-the-Flow social knowledge, can be used for In-the-Flow tasks, so soon enough tapping into Above-the-Flow becomes really important to effectively achieve your In-the-Flow…with a thriving social culture the hope is that it just becomes “The Flow.”
The irony is that In-the-Flow processes don’t neccessarily require a pre-made social culture, so it’s In-the-Flow “collaborative practices” that would be naturally adopted first, and the hope is that this may change or evolve cultural dynamics where people start using Above-the-Flow processes, and as mentioned above this could feed In-the-Flow processes…
Michael alludes to In-the-Flow or collaboration as a first step to building a social culture:
“…most companies need to work their way up to openness, beginning with incremental operational benefits derived from better collaboration within existing boundaries.”
- Using a wiki for setting up meeting and minutes
- People really like that there is no longer ping pong emailing
- You team uses a blog for announcements, instead of broadcast emails, and comments discussion
- People really like that there is no longer ping pong emailing (no-one is left out, information is centralised and searchable)
- You get major benefits from one of the comments, in fact what that person shared, the people they put you in touch with, and the documents they linked to in your DMS, will save you half the cycle time on your project
- You don’t even know this person, they work in another office, and somehow came across the blog post
- This person who left the comment is interested in progress you make, so you decide to blog instead of email as the blog platform has been good to you so far
- you now blog stuff you come to know, like a project diary
- that person who left a comment earlier on, is now leaving comments on your “work-in-progress” blog posts, this discussion leads to brilliant insight, other people are becoming regular readers and commenters
- the commenter is now setting up her own blog (project diary)
- you read their blog and find more valuable information
- others join the blogosphere (they’ve caught the virus)
The idea is the readers, become commenters, and eventually become bloggers.
Most important from the above example is, In-the-Flow benefits have led to Above-the-Flow usage, which in turn you gain insight to use in your In-the-Flow tasks.
Mike Gotta adds to Michael’s post by taking a somewhat similar Directed vs Volunteer approach:
“If I use a wiki within a business process where people are directed by role, workflow and functional needs of the procedure - that’s not all that emergent at all - in fact, it’s not really a valid Enterprise 2.0 use case scenario. But it is indeed use of a wiki for collaboration and it can thrive without the culture issues that this post correctly points out. However, it the wiki was open and allowed participation from others in the organization even though their role, workflow or functional duties did not direct them to interact with that wiki group - well, now we have crossed over into the emergence aspects of Enterprise 2.0 - and, we’re back to “the culture thing”. So you can see how tools, context and whether the interaction pattern is directed or volunteered all collide with each other”
Mike is saying that when a directed approach is taken with social tools to achieve job tasks/functional duties (deliverables), you may not even need a “social culture” upfront, whereas a volunteered approach (people participating for the heck of it) indeed requires a social culture for this to happen and sustain. And a directed approach is not an example of emergence which is a defining aspect of enterprise 2.0…more from Mike.
Does this mean…
In-the-Flow = Directed
Above-the-Flow = Volunteered
Directed ≠ Emergence
Perhaps not, because in another post Mike concludes:
“But even within a scenario where participation and contributions are directed - there are often opportunities for emergence - there is no exclusivity here between the more structured work that occurs within an organization and the informal interactions that E2.0 emphasizes.”
And what if like the old school approach, you are directed/mandated or encouraged (job description/rewards) to use social tools in an Above-the-Flow way, could this lead to emergence?
I think not, in KM 1.0 as soon as the mandate wore off, people stopped using these tools to contribute to the sharing agenda, and I think this would also happen in KM 2.0 even though the tools are more social, easier, simple, effective, etc…
As the meme says it’s all about nuturing culture, people have to want to participate and share Above-the-Flow…
Andrew McAfee in his pioneering article says that if managers didn’t have to look over your shoulder to make sure you were using email and IM, why should these new social tools be any different, he says “…if the new technologies are so compelling, won’t people just start using them without being directed to?”, that is “if we build it, they will come.” The article goes on to say this is not good enough and lists several essential deployment and adoption methods.
But, imagine a project leader ran an experiment for a project where all participants are to have a blog (project diaries), and bookmarks (research collections).
They are to bookmark all their research which may include internal DMS, Intranet, blog posts, and also external stuff.
They are to blog the experience on this project (and also the experience of the experiment)…they are to publish: working’s out, thoughts, feedback, thinking’s out loud, review, opinion, announcements, news, insights, etc…
They are also asked to leave comments on blogs posts, and write blog posts in reply to discussion…and also browse the folksonomy.
Since web 2.0 tools are easier than what came before in order to tease out and share tacit know-how, an experiment like this, even though directed, could scale (provided everyone participated and contributed), and demonstrate some emergent behaviour.
It could show that when you participate (even unpolished thinking out loud) that discussion could evolve your work, and take you to a place that you could not have achieved on your own, and now it’s visible for others to find.
It could show that searching the personal know-how (what’s in our heads) database could reveal stuff that helps you with your job…with a feeling that you are glad someone took the time to share this, and that you feel that you should share to so benefits are reciprocated (we all educate each other).
If people did get all these benefits from participating in the social enterprise, would the next project be a volunteered drive to use social tools, would the participants demand it, as it was so successful in the experiment?
The question is would a mandated (directed) experiment that could show positive benefits (thriving use and gains) from using social tools, be enough to catapult a volunteered approach thereafter?
In the above I mentioned, “…provided everyone participated and contributed…”
If it’s a mandated experiment on one project (pilot), is this enough for people to take part in the experiment properly?
The issue is that it’s hard to explain the feeling you get from enterprise 2.0, like we do on the open web, it’s something you have to experience, and since the tools are cheap or free this isn’t an obstacle.
So is mandating a pilot, enough to generate a positive enough experience, that from thereafter use will continue on a volunteered approach?
If so, then you better get the pilot right, and nuture and guide every nuance to make the experience pleasant, smooth, and fault free…using all the essential deployment and adoption methods.
I’m not too sure I agree with my proposition of running a pilot as a mandated pilot, but as I said it’s an experiment…I tend to hope that if you set the right scenario, support, role-modeling, etc…that the tools may be infectious. The pilot participants need to be carefully studied and guided to make sure they are getting the benefits that we all know exists.
More from this post:
“We (as an industry) are still remiss in associating Enterprise 2.0 as a specific set of tools. That clouds the role of culture and other organizational dynamics which are so influential on “emergence”. What we also need is to a better job at is defining the use case scenarios and usage models around information sharing, communication and collaboration tools that make something “E2.0″”
“When you ask whether Enterprise 2.0 is important to your business strategy you are asking the wrong question. E2.0 augments your business and organizational initiatives - E2.0 is not an end in-and-of-itself. This was the false siren call of KM which lead to so many overblown expectations and so many project failures.”
“If you talked about E2.0 in business terms such as how such a program augments strategic talent initiatives, address shifting workforce demographics, assist with innovation efforts, reduce exception handling or other coordination costs, etc. you are far ahead of the game.”…this is an approach also suggested by James Robertson.
“The role of culture is spot on. Enterprise 2.0 is not about “all collaboration”, “all types of information sharing” or “all types of communication”. The context of E2.0 is anchored around “emergence”. Addressing organizational dynamics, which includes culture, is important to fully leverage and sustain the goals associated with E2.0.”
They continue on from their three types of collaboration post with a quiz to see just how social your organisational culture is, in both the collaborative (directed) and emergent collective (volunteered) aspects.