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Fuelling the Collaboration Engine…


Let us consider the following questions:

  1. When we use a spell-checker in our word-processing tool, and we want to use a word which is not in the dictionary, do we use the “Add to Dictionary” option?
  2. Would many people write to the “Letters to the Editor”, if the newspaper policy did not allow the authors name to be printed?
  3. Would wikipedia have worked simply in a blog format ?

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I am assuming that a majority answer would be Yes, No, No.

A typical collaboration workflow needs to be:

The actions marked in red are those managed by the original author, while the green elements represent “audience” touch-points.

In a typical “sage on stage” learning through the written/spoken word, the left side of the graph is a problem well solved.

However, to drive the right-side collaboration loop there has to be enough incentive for all the actors to sustain the cycle. The “audience” as well as the sage.

So what are the incentives that could motivate the “audience” ?

Analysing the answers to the questions at the beginning of the post provides possible answers.

  1. Yes – People collaborate with the tool (by adding to the tool knowledge) because they feel that it will have a positive impact to their future productivity. If the word is not a frequently used word, it is possible that the person may choose not to use the “Add to Dictionary” option.
  2. No – People want recognition for their contribution.
  3. No – People want their contribution to be a part of the knowledge not as a comment. What this means is that over a period of time, the cycle on the left will increase in redness and the “audience” becomes the authors.

So to facilitate collaboration, it is important for organizations to create an environment (policy, technology) which delivers the above, and wait. Do not mandate, or lecture or hold ROI seminars. Like most cyclical things in nature, it takes time to start and gather speed, and then nothing can stop it.

And why would the sage agree to an perceived erosion of his pre-eminent position in the pecking order?

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