Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Collaboration is Good! Right...?!

Collaboration is good, right? Absolutely. Developments in Internet technologies instigated by shifting demands at the societal level, have facilitated the sharing of knowledge and resources. 'Peer production'; a corollary of said explosion of participation, has quickly led to a notable power shift; one in which the incumbent organisation is quickly losing ground to the more nimble 'Every Man'. With an enhanced capacity to innovate and to create value, the consumer has gradually become a source of potential threat. Indeed, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams advise that these market fluctuations have quickly rewritten the laws of business. The new rules of engagement? Quite simple really; organisations need to harness the new collaborative capabilities of the Web 2.0 era; or face ruin as a result of their ignorance.

Sorry, We are Closed
As discussed in Wednesday's post, most organisations are closed in nature. As such, they are often reluctant to share the information which they believe allows them to remain competitive. Often, the benefits of encouraging an open culture are not immediate obvious; on the contrary, such a stance is more likely to be perceived as detrimental. This is a naive attitude given the enabling capacities afforded by the Internet. As the Internet is increasingly adopted as a mechanism for the realisation of creative output, the opportunity for organisations to benefit from the collective intelligence pool is oft overlooked.

This attitude is almost certainly a corollary of overreliance upon outdated organisational structures. Stagnant heirarchies, a staple of traditional business, have been found time and again to reduce organisational efficiency. Power increases from rung to rung, with members of the hierarchy often reluctant to bestow the resultant authority onto others. Unfortunately, the knowledge base from which a solution can be crafted under such a system is minimal in comparison to that which would otherwise be available were the obstacle under consideration opened up to the online community. This is a classic limitation of the hierarchical structure.

Power to the Masses
Collaboration facilitating tools available online have given rise to a potentially more appropriate organisational structure; that of 'peering'. Realised in a manner similar to that in which average Internet users currently share knowledge and resources, peering has the capacity to facilitate business development through the creation of fluid collaboration networks. With Internet usage growing exponentially through the emergence of new consumer bases in countries such as China and India, the talent pool from which expertise can be drawn is expanding. Solutions devised through the engagement of such groups are far more likely to adequately resolve an issue than that provided by a small team of product developers limited by time and resource constraints established by the organisation.

Radical thinking? Hardly. In fact several organisations are already employing such tactics; the first of which that springs to mind being Dell's Ideastorm project. Why are people willing to contribute to projects such as these? For fun or perceived personal value perhaps. Reasons invariably differ. One thing is for certain though; the capacity for the organisation to benefit from these vast knowledge pools is very real. They just need to realise that small internal teams are perhaps unlikely to match the collective intelligence of billions... It's a case of simple maths.

By simply opening up projects to group participation, the pool from which additional knowledge can be drawn increases exponentially. Sure, this often means the sharing of proprietary data within the network and a minimal loss of power, but in an era of interconnectivity where a transparent approach to business is somewhat of a competitive advantage, is that really such an issue? As with Wednesday article, this post has drawn heavily on knowledge gleaned from my reading of Don Tapscott and Anthony William's fantastic book 'Wikinomics'. I would most definitely recommend this book to all fans of the enabling capacities of the Internet Thanks for reading.


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