I recently spoke with Deb Lavoy, Director of Product Marketing for Digital and Social Media at OpenText, about promoting collaboration and enterprise design in the 21st century.  She began by noting that we are moving from a mechanistic model for organizations to a more human model. I could not agree more. People are much more than machines and it is time to leave Fred Taylor behind.

Deb mentioned that a key differentiator is employee motivation. I have recently seen research to support her position. For example, a study by consulting firm Blessing White found only 33 percent of North American workers engaged in their jobs. Further research has shown that low engagement levels have a proven negative impact on business performance. That would make sense. A study from HR consultancy Towers Watson found that organizations with high employee engagement had a 19 percent increase in operating income versus a 32 percent drop for companies with low levels of engagement.

Deb said that one way to create engagement is with a clear sense of purpose for the organization. This was part of her keynote at the recent Boston Enterprise 2.0 Conference. She said that in the firms she has worked with she have found one single predictor of success. It is a sense of purpose. Even the best people are not successful without a sense of purpose.

Deb expanded on this is a recent blog post, The Pursuit of (Organizational) Purpose. She notes that, ”in a purpose driven organization, every conversation, every meeting is infused with “how do we get better at making this important difference” The company is creating value faster than its taking it out of the market. The purpose acts as the primary criteria for decision-making. Without a purpose, there is only the balance sheet and politics… People become competitive, self-protective kingdom builders.” I have certainly seen this dysfunctional behavior many times. I have also seen the power of a shared sense of purpose. Once you experience this you do not want to go back.

Deb went on to discuss three types of collaboration. First there is creative collaboration that is intended to create something. It could be a product team, a legal team, a team responsible for an RFP, or a marketing launch. There is a specific goal in mind and this goal requires more than what an individual can provide. In a blog post on the topic Deb explains that with this type of collaboration, “what we need to do to encourage such collaboration is make it easy for teams to form, communicate, get organized, contribute, aggregate and iterate on work.”

The second type is connective collaboration that “refers to connecting with a broader community – the organization as a whole, or even more broadly than that… The goal of this type of collaboration is to connect dots – find expertise and resources as you need them.” There are different requirements here as connective collaboration “requires a broad, loosely connected community that can maintain awareness of activity, and ideally, technology that helps them find, discover or get pinged about relevant information, resources, insight and expertise - that they may or may not have been aware of – elsewhere in the system.”  This is where monitoring systems and activity streams can create an ambient awareness and help you follow the pulse of the organization.

Third, there is compounding collaboration which is designed is to “ensure that whatever our endeavor, we are leveraging, to the greatest extent possible, the work that has been done already.” This was one of the goals of knowledge management and now we have much better tools for this purpose.  I was involved in a number of these initiatives in the 1990s and wish we had today’s tools at that time.

Deb notes that compounding collaboration is much more than collecting documents. I could not agree more. The documents frequently become out of date as soon as they written, and even when still current, they require a greater context of what people did than is usually recorded.  As Deb notes in old school KM efforts failed because the documentation was separate form the work. I would agree but only add that not all 1990s KM went down this path. All of the successful ones that I observed where process aligned and work centric. The new tools make it easier to be work centric and add the additional dimension of being people centric.

This people centric capability, along with the flexibility of the new social tools, allows the technology to support how people work rather than having people conform to the structure imposed by the technology as we experienced with traditional enterprise apps.

I found that looking at collaboration through these three types is very useful as there are different goals and different uses of tools within each type. Within Enterprise 2.0 all three types need to be supported.

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