The options we had to collaborate in the past are just not available anymore, but as human beings we need the social interactions. As social beings, if the relationships are not easily accessible, we will recreate them.
In years gone by, teams were large and diverse. It was not unusual in the 80s & 90s to have offices and functions of 100s of people. Today teams and groups are much leaner than they have ever been. Often with just one or two people doing individual tasks. This change has been due to a number of factors, and IT systems making things slicker and easier is one of them. The down side of course is that there are less people to talk things through with, or bounce ideas off of.
In the past if we needed inspiration or the view of another person, we could talk to colleagues at their desk, at the coffee machine or in the works canteen. But things have changed.
Often how people work in isolation. We are expected to do our jobs, and have all the knowledge and processes at our finger tips. Teams are smaller, and often lack the diversity of times gone by. The old ways of collaborating just are not available to us anymore.
Keep it in the company
When an organization is big, of course keeping the collaboration in-house has strategic and copyright advantage. But many organisations are not based in one office or location. So having the ability to share thoughts and experiences between likeminded people becomes not just useful, but essential for a successful business. For it is better to solve the problem in 1 hour with advice from others then struggle for hours on your own.
Of course getting into the habit or mindset of being open and saying that we do not know something is also not easy. In the past it would have looked like a weakness, but now it really is both an advantage and an enabler.
Are we human?
I started this piece by mentioning that humans need social interactions. Whilst technology and organisations have changed, our basic biology and psychology has not. We have an inbuilt desire to connect and communicate to others. If we cannot have them in the physical space (Proxemic zone) as we are we seek them through technology. This is one of the reasons why the “number” of friends on FaceBook or followers on Twitter is important to many. In business we need to recognize this need, and not only provide the technology to facilitate this, but as managers and leaders we need to encourage this behavior.
Those starting to join the workforce from 2014 and beyond have grown up on using tools to work and collaborate remotely. If we do not provide and encourage the use of internal tools, they will connect with people they know externally instead. The question then becomes how can we offer any form of USP, if what we are really providing is solutions founded on an external network?
Using these tools and platforms
The tools like Jive and Yammer are easy to use. The real barrier to utilization is perceived relevance. We need to show people how they can be used to make their life easier, and how it adds value to the business