Yesterday I saw a list of all the reasons why people don’t use social technology to collaborate in their work. You know the kind of list: fears, habits, lack of understanding, lack of leadership, etc. I have to admit I sometimes tire of the focus on the negatives, especially as a sales pitch for consulting work. My response was to point out to the author that at the heart of almost all the points that were raised was a lack of an understanding that collaboration is how work gets done. When we are clear that collaboration is an important part of work then we get over our objections and make it happen. It also opens us up to consider the most effective ways to connect, share, solve and innovate together.
Ain’t Nothing Special
We can easily fall into the trap of selling collaboration technology as special. We’re adding new technology. Magical things will happen. You can have new conversations. You can do new work here. We will achieve all the abstract goals that you have always wanted like engagement, innovation, customer loyalty, productivity, and much much more. As much as we talk about them, these abstract capitalised nouns remain abstract because they aren’t the work most people are doing.
Positioning collaboration technology as different and special runs straight into a priority problem. Where do I get the time to do this new and different thing? How do I even find the time to learn how to do it? With new and different also comes risk. What if I aren’t any good at this new magical and different thing?
Positioning collaboration technology as wondrously different also runs into the problem it is not new. This technology has been in use for nearly a decade and stretches back to models of technology that have been around far longer. Why are we talking as if it is special?
What is the Work?
Ask a different question instead. What work in your organisation requires people to collaborate? Focus on the work and not on the technology. Go find all the instances in each of your work processes today where people have to find coworkers to help, share information, share documents, solve problems together and meet and interact around business challenges. That work is going on right now all around you. Start with the collaboration and bring the technology.
When you start with the collaborative work, you are having a different conversation. The work is going on. You don’t need anyone to prioritise their time different. You only need them to consider which way will make their work more effective. How could that collaboration be different if they worked out loud? How might it be easier, faster, better quality or otherwise more effective?
Put the collaborative work of your organisation at the heart of your collaboration technology. Your users probably don’t want anything else there.
Talk is Talk. Work is Value
Because collaboration technology is often owned by support areas, we can see it as a communication technology. We can focus far too much on the new conversations that will come along as the community builds. You do not want to position collaboration technology as a place for chat or social interactions.
The purpose of your organisation is the work that you do. That work involves connecting, sharing, solving problems and making change. Do that work in your collaboration technology. Focus obsessively on creating strategic value by connecting to the collaborative work across the organisation. When you do so, you will surprise the organisation with the value that can be created by working differently. You will also find that most of the barriers disappear as people race to be involved.