Forward-thinking leaders understand that collaboration is crucial for any organization that wants to be productive, adaptable, and creative. Collaboration allows employees to connect with colleagues, share information and ideas, discover who else in the organization is working on the same issues, and increase productivity. People solve problems they wouldn’t otherwise have solved, get work done quicker than ever before, and feel connected because they are working together toward a common goal.
Why, then, is it sometimes so difficult to make the leap from knowing that a higher level of collaboration would be good for your organization to actually implementing it? What tools does your organization need to help facilitate collaboration, and how do you ensure that your personnel will use those tools? Why do many organizations struggle to provide their employees with collaboration tools that can gain the critical mass necessary for collaboration to “go viral”?
If people in an organization want to collaborate but the tools are not easy to use, will they go the extra mile to collaborate or will the barriers still be too high? When people go to the collaboration site and no one is there, will they come back? Would you continue to go to Facebook if nobody else was online? The key in the corporate environment is to put collaboration literally at the fingertips of employees and to generate mass involvement—which is the only way that collaboration works.
You need to eliminate any barriers to entry by integrating the collaboration tools directly into the programs and tools that employees are already using every day.If, as you’re working, you have to pause and redirect your train of thought away from the material you’re working on and onto the collaboration tool you need to use to share your work, chances are you’ll opt to skip collaborating. But if the collaboration mechanisms are seamlessly integrated into the programs you use on a daily basis, you can share a document or initiate a chat without having to change your focus.
The philosophy of many organizations is “If you build it, they will come.” In this approach the organization has a vision to implement a new collaborative environment that includes all of the tools necessary to collaborate effectively. The new environment is launched with great fanfare. At first users use the environment but over time its use dwindles. The barrier to entry is too great or users must consciously leave their existing applications to collaborate.
How often has your organization taken this approach? Occasionally, that approach has worked; Facebook is probably the best example of this type of success in the consumer space. But a lot of dead companies lie in Facebook’s shadow, as well as a lot of failed projects within organizations. Just like Zuckerberg, they built environments, interfaces, and platforms—but no one came. As you’ll hear from any CIO who has tried unsuccessfully to get employees to use a new collaboration suite, simply standing up an environment and hoping people will show up is a huge gamble. Rather than “If you build it, they will come,” the philosophy should be “If you integrate it, they will use it.”