Collaborate? Yes – sure! But what is the context?
Collaborating at work is nothing new. We have always been collaborating and interacting at work. Why? There are many reasons. Depending on what we are working on, collaborating may provide us different perspectives to a problem that we may be focused on. It helps inform, refine and improve our decisions and response. We learn from each other. Helps us reduce errors. Costs. Time. The need for collaborating at work is well established.
Collaboration meant things like meetings, phone calls, water coolers, walking over. The rise of social media tools gave us another way to collaborate. Email, Chat, instant message and conversation tools became the collaboration tools of the day.
We are presented with tools that are very use intuitive and easy to use. These tools help us interact with our colleagues in real time, wherever we are, whenever we want to. This has paradoxically presented us with a hosepipe problem. Information required to accomplish a task is fragmented in twitter size pieces. And quite often there is tons of it.
Is it too much of a good thing? Is there is too much collaboration? Maybe. Maybe not.
It is not unlike email that brought in more distractions. We all know the feeling of being compelled to respond to emails rather than finish work that needs to be done. We similarly feel obliged to hang out at the online water cooler – the chat stream and respond instantly.
We are all faced with diffused, not increased focus. Systems are integrated but information is fragmented more, not less. Why is this so?
At BISIL we have been working on this problem for quite some time, and here is what we realized at our moment of enlightenment. We interact and collaborate in personal lives because we like to engage with our friends. That is why they are our friends. We like spending time with them, whenever we can however we can. If we cannot drink or dine together, we share experiences over Facebook posts and Whatsapp messages.
The situation at work is not the same. Don’t get me wrong. We like our colleagues. Most of us. Most of the time. We get along with each other. However, our interactions are centered around tasks that we need to collectively accomplish. Transactions that we are working on. Things that we are doing.
I talk to my colleagues in HR in context of someone I am evaluating to hire, my colleagues in Sales for some prospect that we are trying to sell to, in Operations to deliver something to a customer. There is a always a context to my collaboration with different people – a hire, a sale or a delivery.
As friends we interact. As colleagues we interact in the context of work.
So the question that framed itself for us – How do we bring context to the collaboration that we need to do. Some sort of guided collaboration to help keep our focus on work on hand, keep the ball moving forward on to the next step, help us work together better?