Note from the Editor: Ignasi Alcalde has given us permission to use this article that was published in his blog, in which he talks about how collaboration has converted into a key aspect in organizations. What consequences does collaboration have in the definition of work relationships in a corporation?
We are immersed in a “new economy” in which has begun to predominate more non-conventional work relationships, and where effective collaboration is consolidating itself as a key point. In his book Sustaining the New Economy: Work, Family, and Community in the Information Age, Martín Carnoy draws the foundation of the scene of work relationships in the “new economy” with the comment: “Work is not disappearing but rather it is suffering a profound change. The two key elements of the transformation are the flexibility of the work process and the interconnection in company networks and the individuals inside those companies.”
But let’s go a little deeper into the core concept of the “new economy”. While many academics and economists have tried to define it, it’s interesting to note David Neumark’s point of view in his article Employment Relationships in the New Economy where in place of finding a definition of the new economy, he explores its consequences and analyses what the new economy produces as “new”.
Editor’s note: Ignasi Alcalde has given us permission to use this article from his blog in which he reflects on the path towards collaborative intelligence. We wanted to post it as we share his interest in technologies 2.0 as tools for working the collaborative and horizontal side of communication. At Zyncro we believe that enterprise social networks encourage creativity and shared learning and we see them as the best opportunity for collaboration and exchange. What do you think?
A few days ago I read in La Contraan interview with Jeremy Riffkin in which he made some curious comments about electricity. He said “what is revolutionary is its combination with the internet: the network brain. Authority will no longer be vertical, but distributive. The true revolution will spark when energy is transmitted by network and collective intelligence regulates its use.” When I read it, I instantly though of a quote by José Ortega y Gasset: “a civilization only endures if many contribute in the effort. If everyone prefers to enjoy the fruit, civilization collapses.”
According Wikipedia, collective intelligence is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals or living beings of the same species, which is a term generalized by cyberculture or the knowledge society. In fact, he sees it as consensus decision-making, as it has been done effectively in the past by bacteria, small animals and insects like bees or ants… and it is framed academically within the field of Sociology, IT science and behavior of the multitudes, a field that studies the collective behavior at quark level to bacteria, plants, animals and human society.
Extrapolated to people, Tom Atlee describes that collective intelligence can be encouraged “to overcome ‘groupthink’ and individual cognitive bias to allow a collective to cooperate on one process while reaching a higher intellectual performance” and George Pór defined the phenomenon of collective intelligence as “the capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order complexity and harmony, through such innovation mechanisms as differentiation and integration, competition and collaboration.”
For me, a difference should be made between collaborative intelligence and collective intelligence, which represents a specific case. In collective intelligence, a final product emerges from actions of a group of persons who do not interact among themselves. Collaborative intelligence looks after problems where individual experience and different interpretations of several experts are critical for solving problems.
A clear example of this application are practice communities, where professional groups and interested collectives exchange knowledge to develop a specialized knowledge, sharing learning based on shared reflection on practical experiences. Both types of intelligence are intimately related with the so-called Web 2.0 and more specifically, with some applications such as Management 2.0, E-Learning 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0.
On the other hand, in both types of intelligence, there is a series of nuances clearly expressed through the concept “Power Law of Participation” from Ross Mayfield. Mayfield lists a series of activities through which the transition from collective intelligence to collaborative intelligence is made, characterized by greater involvement. These activities include: read, tag content, comment, subscribe, share, network, write, refactor, collaborate, and lead. Wikipedia represents the most paradigmatic example that illustrates collaborative intelligence.
Collaborative intelligence also can be classified according to the degree and type of collaboration that individuals give to the end product. There are many modes of collaboration. For example, the “fusion mode” where each individual contributes something to the end product where that contribution is fusioned (as is the case of collective writing of articles in a Wiki system). Also there is the “molecular mode”, used in a book written by several authors where each contribution is maintained in its relative entirety within the bigger entity; the “collection mode” where each contribution is made to a greater whole that may be open (as is the case with YouTube, Flickr or blog systems like Blogger or WordPress); or a “agregator mode” , the most simple case being comments on a post in a blog, or on articles on news sites.
As Ramón Sangüesa and Irene Lapuente from Co-Creating Cultures point out, technologies 2.0 enable you to work the most collaborative side or horizontality of communication as experts and non-experts can coexist on the Internet. They also say “the Internet has provided an opportunity for mass collaborative exchange, but it is also true that over time, we are witnessing an inflation in purely commercial applications in the social media. What we are interested in is the initial value of a part of this collaborative technology and what we do is hybrid this collaborative work impulse, with participative design methods, to create a learning opportunity. This new reality can be brought to other levels and start knowledge exchange projects and the capacity for reflection and empowerment, giving many people a voice, and enhancing the capacity for creativity and learning”.
To do this, Design Thinking is a concept that is becoming more widespread in the business world, and more specially, in the areas of competitivity. It is linked with the way in which professional designers think, approach problems and reach solutions. It is an attitude towards problems and the challenges that the limits impose in problem solving.
According to Forrester Research, the international software business for creating and managing enterprise social networks will grow annually by 61%, reaching a turnover of approximately 6,400 million USD in 2016. In other words, it supports the obvious trend that enterprise social networks are becoming the central communication pillar for businesses, promoting collaboration, cooperation and synergies between employees.
The change from static intranet to enterprise social networks is a reality, and they will become the main communication tool in companies over the next few years. This, in my opinion, is due to two key reasons. The first is that static intranets have a closed and organized structure based on departments, units, areas, folders and services, often organized according to ICT logic. This is a reflection of a relationship model designed for production, based on the division of work and the exhaustive control of operations. At this stage of the 21st century it is obvious that in the current environment of an information and knowledge society that is in constant evolution, has global interdependencies, and which is digitalized and hyper-connected, businesses cannot base themselves solely on these types of model.
The other reason they will end up clearly becoming part of the business environment is the tools in the “cloud” concept. Apart from being more economically attractive than company ICT structures, the cloud facilitates the ubiquity and accessibility in real time of company information to employees and customers.
But let’s look a little bit beyond the obvious. Recently I gave a workshop, together with Laura Rosillo, at the Madrid headquarters of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, called “The 3Cs: towards a culture of collaboration in companies”, where, over three days, we reflected with a group of HR professionals on the advantages of promoting collaboration within organizations to be more competitive in the new economy. We mainly explored the reasons of “The Economy of Collaboration”, the why and how of sharing within organizations. It is obvious that knowledge is in people and is strictly personal, and that it is based on information, its understanding, implementation and the accumulation of subsequent experiences and learnings.
This is well defined by Maite Darceles in her book Guías para la transformación (Guidelines for transformation), in which she explains that “what surrounds people is information, not knowledge. Books in libraries, all types of information on the internet, reports in our archives, statistics, scientific publications… All of it is information that, through the knowledge of people, obtains value in multiple forms… Information and data can be systematized, procedural, but knowledge can’t. The relevant fact will be its use in the organization, in other words, how people learn and how they act using their knowledge, in a continual flow, interaction and recursiveness”.
And there lies the challenge, beyond the tool is a business culture change, which leads to a transition in a purely transactional and hierarchical environment towards relationship spaces of people, ideas, experiences, knowing if we really want to progress towards the economy of knowledge and therefore be innovative and competitive.
In a complex a world as ours nowadays, collaboration is essential for generating knowledge, innovation and social balance. Collaboration requires trust and comes from generosity, as without generosity in small doses, collaboration wouldn’t be possible. Examples like Genius Crowds, where you can share new product ideas, or Shareable are illustrates of this change in paradigm.
The book “The Penguin and the Leviathan”, by Havard Law professor Yochai Benkler, gives a simple but exhaustive vision of literature on collaboration and how it is seen through the prism of economics, sociology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology… among other disciplines. It also reflects on how collaboration is the most valuable weapon for the well-being of society. The book describes scientific studies and an endless number of examples, based on the Internet, that reveal that humans are not as inherently selfish and socially retrograded creatures as economists would like us to believe. Examples are shelled out that cover management culture at Toyota and Southwest Airlines, the digital gift economies of GNU / Linux, Wikipedia and CouchSurfing. The “penguin” of the title refers to the Linux logo, the free software OS that Benkler considers to be emblematic of the new cooperation mode. He dubs as “Leviathan”, which according to Wikipedia is a sea monster from the Old Testament, the hierarchical top-down systems where control and coercion are key, as opposed to the age of digital networks and cooperation.
Personally I believe that without a collaborative culture, there is no participation, and hence, there is no single shared vision.
”We need to build a culture of collaboration, not implement a collaboration of different cultures.” In other words, collaboration starts in the mind of the people, not in the inheritance and adaptation of existing business culture.
We also need to be clear that we can’t waste time with traditional metrics. It doesn’t matter how many times a person posts or how many messages they leave in the forum… What matters is how that person participates. So we need a new open, connected and transparent leadership business philosophy. If you want collaboration to occur, you need to have coherent leaders that win trust and respect for doing what they say. For setting the example.
In the changing complex context in labor terms, I ask myself whether collaboration could be another form of independent work to explore, where rewards can be monetary or not, and where ethics takes precedence and power is more transparent.
I want to finish with a quote from Martin Nowak: “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive world”. We lack a culture of commons, empathy, solidarity, as well as of social norms of equality and trust. If only we realize the benefits and the psychological/social consequences of collaboration at a social and global scale.
More and more companies and organizations are starting to deploy new collaboration strategies and enterprise social networking tools as a core part of their business evolution to connect with and engage employees. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for these actions to become successful immediately in enterprises for two main reasons:
the lack of focus or collaborative architecture
the lack of supervision of these initiatives
As normally in companies there is no specific role responsible for collaboration.
Regarding the first point, the lack of focus normally seen from a business perspective, the goals of a corporation before implementing an Enterprise Social Network are essentially: listening, learning, informing, engaging, influencing, as indicated by Josep Baijet from ZyncSocial in his posts Maybe you got Zyncro for one of these reasons?, who has dissected the majority of reasons “why” a company acquired an enterprise social network like Zyncro. What’s more, in his Social Methods, he analyzes the main areas like co-creation, collaboration, conflict resolution, engagement, innovation, improvement, productivity… sure steps for the potential of an enterprise social network. However, we must remember and constantly remind ourselves that enterprise networks are made up of people, and it is these people that form the “core” of the design process of the collaboration “architecture.”
Regarding the second point, the lack of supervision, as pointed out by Jacob Morgan in his post Do Organizations Need a Chief Collaboration Officer?, companies need an executive responsible for integrating collaboration in the company, a role that he suggests be called the CCO (Chief Collaboration Officer). An article in the Harvard Business Review by Professor Morten T Hansen Who Should be Your Chief Collaboration Officer? puts forward five possible profiles, which range from the CIO, the HR head, the COO, the CFO, to the head of strategy. Regardless of whoever should cover the role, it is a key function is one that designs a comprehensive collaboration solution that implies a strategy and involvement from other human resource departments.
To finish, I would like to reflect on what I shared in the post Designing Collaboration, the ultimate goal of any process that involves collaboration within a company should be essentially an internal transformation process. And with that, it should revolve around three basic pillars:
Processes, Relationships and Learning. Above all, we must not forget the latter two if we want to innovate and co-create.
Much has been said, written and speculated about collaboration and co-creation on collaboration networks and about collaborative work. Networking and relations are important for getting work, but when commencing projects through collective, joint work, what is really important is workneting, in other words, starting lasting professional relationships.
Workneting means a true collaboration that cannot be forced, which is more than just coordinating efforts, as individuals decide whether to collaborate or not, and their decision is both emotional and rational. It is people, the project and ultimately the tool and/or software that gives value and meaning to the collaboration.
How do I start and maintain a collaboration network?
Essentially, in line with what I mentioned in my post Why do people share knowledge?, among the many other factors, there are two basic conditions: matched expectations and unmatched knowledge.
Regardless of the collaboration network type, there are 3 types of problems that we come across in collaboration networks and collaborative work that need to be taken into account:
Freeriding: In a collaboration network, relations are sustained by fairness in contributions. When someone gives back little or nothing at all at an insufficient rate and takes advantage of other’s contributions, the “freeriding” phenomenon occurs, which takes its name from those that use the subway without paying: the group has contributed to create an infrastructure/service and there are those that don’t collaborate in maintaining it.
Crowdsourcing: Another problem that wears with this is that at times, “crowdsourcing” occurs where a privileged agent takes credit for all the creativity of the group (e.g. a company). If the rules are clear and indicate who will use the result of the group’s creativity, then there is no basis for complaint if the person who called the “crowdsourcing” uses the results.
Conspiracy: Networks are established on trust. Trust is expectations on the capacity for commitment and response, on the other person’s competence, on the people we collaborate with. Complete sustained trust generates and stabilizes a reputation. But the reputation can be easily broken if the group decides to reduce the positive evaluation and reputation of an element on the network after each interaction or collaboration. The mechanism can be extremely quick and difficult to detect in systems that base their evaluation on people’s votes.
As we can see, in an ideal team-collaboration experience we must be able to detect who’s committed as opposed to who is frustrated, as this can determine the team’s performance.
Ignasi Alcalde is a multimedia consultant at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). Once again, he has wanted to share his thoughts on collaborative work, which he usually publishes on his blog and on his Twitter timeline.
The social networks have evolved from their initial use as a personal communication tool to become a major global phenomenon, transforming them into a important communication channel that has been firmly adopted in the business world with tools like Zyncro.
If used properly, this new social relationship between companies and their employees and customers presents major benefits for organizations, such as helping to improve communication and customer service, or increasing productivity and encouraging self-directed learning among employees.
Yet I think one of the best returns from implementing a tool like Zyncro in an organization is being able to map the knowledge generated internally each day and encourage all members of the team to participate in the business directions.
The most innovative companies see participation
as a vital pillar in the way they are and act.
Nonetheless, the “how” question still remains ever-present: How can we create processes that respect our customers’ and/or employees’ contributions and that recognize the diversity of roles among customers, partners, suppliers and employees? How can we balance their diverse know-how? If we add the context 2.0 to the equation, with technology providing us with an arsenal of collaborative tools, the scenario becomes even more complex. “Designing participation” is a fascinating challenge that is gaining in importance in numerous business sectors.
The social web has unveiled new opportunities and new challenges. As users, we’ve matured. We know that participation can offer us a wide spectrum of options: from simple feedback on an article or proposal to co-designing and co-producing new content and knowledge.
Casual participation: Contributors participate spordiacally by making comments and contributing ideas.
Tutorized participation: Contributors with interests, experts in key topics or members of the community whose collaboration becomes more sophisticated and sustained over time.
Network of experts: Opinions from a networks of experts on real projects and contents
Looking at tutorized participation, for example, it involves professionals with new competences like a design mindset or skills in managing the cognitive load i.e. the ability to discriminate and filter information by order of importance and to understand how to optimize the cognitive function using a variety of tools and techniques. We could dub them the “curators and designers” of creative production.
Dolors Reig in her post 9 new professions for the connected individual (in Spanish) puts forward two professional roles that she believes to be essential in a participative, co-creative business environment: the collective intelligence organizer, rather similar to the social communicologist but focused on getting knowledge products that are useful for the organization; and the participation expert who is responsible for showing the training and leadership possibilities in general and who encourages employees to exploit collective creativity and intelligence potential.
Note from the editor: Ignasi Alcalde has been so kind as to allow us to use this article from his blog (in Spanish) which includes an explanation of diverse theories on how information is shared in this hyper-connected society.
It is impossible to imagine the amount of “last minute” information that we can process on a daily basis. With the use of Twitter, Facebook updates, e-mail updates, RSS… we share a lot of information. Normally everybody sharing carries out various tasks at the same time: sending, forwarding and sharing, mashing up, receiving, redistributing, creating, combining and re-creating.
After having read the psychology behind sharing, Why do people share content online?, I was able to understand the main motivations behind the act of sharing. Almost 75% of the people involved in the study indicated that the act of sharing is an act of “information management” that allows for a more in depth as well as more careful processing of information which indicates that the exchange of information when shared, helps achieve better quality work.
Seth Godin founder of Squidoo says in his post “I spread your idea because…”, outlines some interesting key points as to why we share on the Internet. The points that stand out most to me are:
Sharing this idea makes me feel generous, unselfish.
The idea is of interest to me and I would like to take an active role in its success and its reach.
I am outraged and want others to join in my outrage
Somebody I know or am close to has asked me to directly
I can use it to unite different people and build a community
Economies of scale, your service – which I already use – will work much better if people use it
Your idea allows me to express something that I myself find difficult to express or to express directly
It allows me to help somebody I consider important or am interested in
I like what you do and this is my means of payment to you
But what I am really interested in, is understanding the fundamental aspects that drive the behavior of sharing in a working environment. What makes people willing to share their knowledge with others? Our knowledge is closely linked with our identity after all, it is very important for each one of us to be seen by colleagues as a knowledgeable expert. One of the main ways of demonstrating this identity to our colleagues is by sharing our knowledge with them. In fact, sharing knowledge is dangerous because the other person could make an offensive comment about it or say that it is not worth considering. And sharing knowledge takes time because in order to be able to really respond to what somebody else is asking, we need to spend time understanding the problem and explain it with the sufficient depth of information.
In the blog by Nancy Dixon, one of the most interesting studies is revealed as to the exchange of information conducted by Constant, Kiesler and Sproull. One of its discoveries was that the employees differentiated two types of knowledge exchange. One type of person was sharing products for example computer programmes and the second type, was sharing the knowledge that the employees had learnt from their own experience, for example how to get to a bottle neck in the system or how to manage with a particularly difficult error in the programme. This second type of knowledge that they consider to be part of their identity, is a largely what allows them to be good professionals.
When they share the second type of knowledge, that of the experience based, they obtained a personal benefit from doing so. The personal benefit was not monetary nor was it based on the premise of a promotion but in fact the main driver for the exchange of experience based knowledge is respect and recognition amongst peers. Recognition means more to us when it comes from those who really know about the subject and know what they are talking about.
This takes us to the second reason why people share knowledge; relationships. The way in which a professional can tell how somebody is going to react towards the valuable asset of their knowledge is to know that person well enough, which means there is a need for creating trustworthy relationships. Relationships can be built by means of informal conversations, by reading what somebody else has written, working together as a team or checking comments within an online community.
Therefore to summarise, the exchange of knowledge is closely linked with relationships and they mutually interact. As mentioned by Ismael Peña-López in one of my recent posts, it is important to visualize the strictly individualistic benefits that the participant will obtain when collaborating with others. This refers to the incentives one has when working with others. As well as needing little effort and having the ability to reach further, there are two additional conditions: symmetrical expectations and asymmetrical knowledge.
On one hand I need to know that there will be symmetry when it comes to dedication and overall, when it comes to the level and quality of the contribution others make towards my efforts. If I know a lot about one topic or am very involved in it, I would want the others to have a similar background. If not, I would feel as though I were working for somebody rather than with somebody. On the other hand, areas of knowledge should be asymmetrical as it is here that authenticity is key, where contributions from different team members are not the same. If this is not the case, people who could otherwise work perfectly by themselves would be working together in order to achieve the same outcome with the added coordination costs that come with teamwork, which in this case would not be compensated with any benefits.
Thesedays it is usually hard to find socially useful activities that can be carried out strictly on an individual basis. Collaboration and collaborative work usually offer great strengths: as they integrate individual efforts, maximise the diverse capabilities of each member, share out the work according to specific functions in order to achieve a combined result.
This is how things really are but lately and due to the great burst of multiple collaborative tools, there is much talk as to the benefits of collaborative work which incidentally has many myths that should be clarified.
Collaboration implies having extra time available.
People do or do not collaborate as comes naturally.
People know how to collaborate instinctively.
In my opinion, the first and fifth are the most relevant points. Collaboration tools have been in existence for various years and the idea of using computer networks as a base for online collaboration is fairly old.
Having good collaborative tools that facilitate collaboration is very important but people have been collaborating for a lot longer than these tools have been around and some groups of people do not collaborate even when new collaborative tools are available. Ironically though, sometimes the most powerful collaboration can take place by simply using paper or a whiteboard.
Putting aside the adecuate tools for the place we collaborate in and whether it is a whiteboard, company microblogging or a telework system, collaboration does not necessarily take place “by chance”, and overall in ways that can benefit the company’s common objectives.
In order to put together a good dynamic collaboration let us say that there are four basic key elements: transparency, authenticity, collaboration, trust.
When we begin a collaborative project and depending on its components, there are some expectations and objectives but these many a time get stuck along the way and do not end in success. The key for me lies within knowing how to work in a team.
Although collaborative work and teamwork may seem the same, the truth is that collaborative work takes place within teamwork and in addition, it can be found not only in teamwork but can also help achieve the goals set right at the beginning of the work.
When we find ourselves with conflicting situations that can lead us to a crisis, we “should” work as a team and I suggest that when tasks and agreements do not move forward, it is because whatever it is that we are doing would work better if we could work as a team.
In order to achieve teamwork, one must go through a learning curve and go against old and more traditional approaches to working which emphasised “solo-working” and individual responsibility in order for us to really be able to have a way into a world that is crying out for the integration and coordination of capabilities.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Follow our collaborative working expert @ignasialcalde on Twitter!
This is my first entry in this blog. I will introduce myself. My name is Ignasi Alcalde and I am a Training Multimedia Graduate and Multimedia Consultant by profession. My main areas of professional knowledge are Training Communities, Collaborative work and Social Media Strategy. You can learn more about me in my personal blog, IA.
I am passionate about communication between people and their dynamic social relationships. I am fascinated by the creative power when people feel passionate and explore, share, speak, extract and consolidate new ideas and projects, in other words co-creating in a collaborative manner. I love learning things on a day to day basis. I am seduced by the future… in which communication and knowledge are within reach for the whole world, in which ethical, human and sustainable values are the foundation of society. Therefore I will write about all of these topics and I will enjoy sharing, learning and co-creating with you all.
Let us begin.
What is collaborative working?
Collaborative working is a way in which we can relate to others that live near us. “Near” can mean the same area, village, town, region, country, it depends on what we propose to ourselves and how many people we would be. There are no limits in virtual environments. Our collaboration can take on many people, many organisations, many institutions, or be narrowed down to a small group.
But whatever the scale of our work, there is always a context. Let us say that collaborative working is a process in which each individual can learn more than what he or she could learn alone, a result of the interaction with team members and thus, a job done within a group in a collaborative manner gives a more enriching result than the sum of the work of each individual member.
As I mentioned in a my blog post called “Wiki philosophy and relational dynamics” (in Spanish) we could say that a cooperative work takes place when there is a reciprocity between a set of individuals that know how to differentiate and compare their points of view in such a way that they generate a process for constructing knowledge.
Teamwork is based on achieving a common goal by means of interaction that conditions individual and shared work. This requires not only the acquisition and implementation of knowledge but also skills and attitudes. It cannot be converted into the sharing out of tasks in compartmental blocks, but that each member involves themselves and cooperates with the tasks of others on the understanding that a common goal is being worked towards.
The success of the team will only be possible if all of the members of the same group learn from one another and ensure that every group member has achieved the common goal objective. We must remember that if we apply this to a project, it must follow these basic rules:
Be compiled by everybody
Have coherent objectives
Be divided into phases
As I said in my post “Organisations and collaborative working” (in Spanish), it is important to emphasise that both inhibiting factors and enhancing factors exist for success in collaborative working processes. In actual fact, users see any element deemed as time wasting or unproductive as inhibiting. But certain attitudes that facilitate working in a team in a virtual environment are always convenient such as dedication, transparency, perseverance and respect towards the opinions of other group members. What do you think?