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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1191 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Beware of the collaboration trap

04.03.2013
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Collaboration is something that all companies want to be better at, right?  You have all of that knowledge stuck inside your employees heads, and if only you could collaborate better that knowledge would be sucked out and applied in ever more useful directions.  Last year for instance a study was published revealing that 75% of organisations believed collaboration to be important to them.

Which is great, isn’t it?  Well yes, and no.  Of course breaking down siloes and encouraging greater collaboration between employees and other stakeholders can yield some tremendous results (if you can prove them that is).  It’s far from a panacea to your problems however, and bad collaboration is often worse than not bothering at all.  It sees people engaging for the sake of engaging and failing to keep in mind the point of what it is they’re trying to do, which is nearly always to improve profitability or reduce costs.

Morten Hansen is one of the foremost authorities on collaboration, and he’s identified a number of collaboration traps that organisations can often fall into.

Collaboration trap #1 – Overcollaborating

What is collaboration?  The dictionary definition is to work together with someone to produce something.  That last part is crucial.  Your collaboration has to have an end product that is useful to the business.  Collaborating for the sake of it is not cool.

Collaboration trap #2 – Overhyping

Collaboration can be great, but with it being so difficult to quantify there is a tendancy to overhype its potential.  As with any social business project, it needs to be something you can measure, so make sure you have some good metrics and err on the side of caution with your predictions.

Collaboration trap #3 – Underestimating the costs

The costs of collaboration are not just financial ones.  Whilst few managers will trumpet the virtue of siloes, the very fact that they exist so often suggests there is something in us that quite likes them.  Overcoming this can require significant political investment, which should not be underestimated.

Collaboration trap #4 – Misdiagnosing the problem

It’s often thought that employees would gladly collaborate if only they had the tools to do so.  Whilst this is possible, it’s also very possible that people are happy working the way they do, or there are political reasons why they don’t want to work with ‘rival’ departments.  It might be of course that if information was easier to find that people would work better together, but don’t assume that’s the case.

Collaboration trap #5 – Implementing the wrong solution

If you fall into trap #4 then it’s very likely that you’ll fall into trap #5 as well.  Social business tools are great, but they are just tools.  Their success will be underpinned by the culture within your organisation, so if you misdiagnose the problem it’s very likely that you’ll be providing a solution to a problem most people don’t have.