Rant: Are you using social media to co-operate or collaborate?

On Wednesday, January 25th, I presented a short rant at a conference themed around collaborative management. My talk was about challenging some of the assumptions around collaboration: specifically, that using social media and collaborative tools doesn't always result in collaboration. In some cases, the co-operative behaviours that result are mistakenly interpreted as collaborative actions. But there is a difference, and in only recognizing these patterns in our own work that we will be able to move beyond them and into authentic collaboration. Below is a modified version of my rant.

Collaboration has become a bit of a buzzword. Like convergence or synergy. In fact, it is often completely misused.

Your staff are sharing their research, projects and knowledge on collaborative platforms. If they need some information, a set of stats, or a best practice, they know exactly where to find it. They’re networking with groups in other organizations doing similar work.

So, are they collaborative?

No. They’re co-operative.

Co-operation is the process of working together.
Collaboration is the process of working together to produce or create something collectively.

Co-operation is a reciprocal way of working.
Collaboration is an inclusive way of working toward a common goal.
It’s not A gives and takes with B. It’s A and B work together to produce C.

So my challenge to you is to consider: how many truly collaborative projects have you done? In how many horizontal working groups is your team participating? Do you contribute your experience and expertise to organization-wide or even industry-wide projects?

The current buzz phrase is “Doing more with less”. We can co-operate and do just that. But we should strive to “Do more with more”. More people, more insights.

Don’t just co-operate, collaborate.

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