In 2011, and again in 2012, while preparing to cofacilitate with Ric Phillips1 a workshop about collaboration across an enterprise-architecture community of practice, we were reminded with jarringly clarity that the word collaboration is misunderstood and misused, and that unhelpful behaviours result from this misunderstanding and misuse. Under the banner of collaboration are in fact three broad classes of behaviour:
…and the expectations upon participants and on the elements needed to support those behaviours vary greatly from one broad class to the next, as:
- Connecting is simply establishing and in some way monitoring connections between people in environments such as LinkedIn and, to a certain extent, Twitter and Yammer. Connecting gives rise to ambient intimacy2 — knowing what is happening, knowing something of what your peers are doing.
- Sharing is making available to others some or all information, decisions, and other artefacts (e.g., strategies, templates, documents, diagrams, code) that are generated by doing work. Sharing can be mediated by websites, blogs, Twitter, and so forth.
- Collaborating is the deliberate cooperative creation of something new: new products, new artefacts, new understanding — in any form, new value.
Selected good definitions of collaboration include:
- two or more people working together towards shared goals3
- creative coordinated goal-oriented4
- working together to achieve a goal5
…and three random examples are offered below:
- busoto is a new portmanteau of the phrase build something together, illustrated by the drawing at the head of this post, which my five-year-old daughter and i built together deliberately.
- Wai Notes6, 7 is a music album containing early/demonstration versions of songs that were recorded by Will Oldham and Dawn McCarthy by exchanging tapes in the postal mail.
- A group of architects from different organisations obtain local sponsorship to work together to define and create business capability models for their sector.
Collaboration, busoto, is a deliberate and identifiable behavioral style. It builds upon, depends upon, and is a higher form of connecting and sharing. Communicators and collaborators must acknowledge and stay actively aware of the difference between connecting, sharing, and collaboration.
- Ric Phillips and his excellent eapatterns blog at http://eapatterns.tumblr.com/
- Ambient Intimacy coined and defined at http://www.reboot.dk/page/1236/en
- Ephraim Freed’s August 2012 post What Collaboration Really Means at http://www.thoughtfarmer.com/blog/2012/08/14/what-collaboration-really-means/ includes a useful list of behaviours often confused with or labelled as being collaborative, but that are not collaboration.
- Jane McConnell’s May 2012 post Clarifying the word “collaboration” to reduce confusion and conflict at http://netjmc.com/social-collaboration/clarify-to-reduce-confusion-and-conflict includes some helpful models indicating how collaboration fits into the digital workplace and other work and organisational patterns, alongside intranet/content and people-connectedness.
- The wikipedia definition at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration
- Wai Notes at Drag City http://www.dragcity.com/products/wai-notes
- Wai Notes at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wai_Notes