One word as a focal point for change – Collaboration

Taking up my last post on the role of social software and collaboration technology in organizational change management (“Cultural change and developing collaboration capabilities“) I want to add Charlie Bess’ view on EDS’ Next Big Thing Blog. Here Charlie holds that collaboration is the focal point for change in 2008:

[collaboration] can be applied at many levels to the changes that are underway.

At the cultural level, we’re all familiar with web 2.0 and the collaboration across organizations it supports. Wikinomics states the view of collaboration between organizations, increases diversity of perspective enabling innovation and reaching objectives more quickly.

At the software level, the concept of SOA is based upon the collaboration between services, enabling clear separation between the interface and the underlying data, freeing up organizations to focus at a higher (more business oriented) level.

[...] Companies need to be more agile, moving from viewing change as a periodic disruption of the status quo to accepting continuous change as the norm. Information technology (IT) has an important role to play, since it enables agility through collaboration. IT needs to collaborate with the rest of the enterprise in meeting the business objectives, probably until it fades into the business itself.

It’s timely also that Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (blog here) was recently invited to the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast. Topic of the talk is “Be a Social Technology Provocateur”. Get the mp3 here, listen to it.

Makes me wonder – is there a place for a “consultant provocateur” to get enterprise social software going? Provocation is such a bad and naughty word. Well, sometimes it’s a necessary part of the consulting task/project at hand, smartly disguised as innovation consulting. But this works best when combined with the credibility and professional ethics that clients always need. Being pushy is a dumb idea. Bringing an outside-in perspective is a good start, and if let’s add smart questions, communication, promotion, explanations of best practices. So we can make friends and win inner-organizational allies etc. – even when we’re shaking the boat?

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4 Responses to “One word as a focal point for change – Collaboration”

  1. Oliver Marks says:

    - just saw your tweet and flipped over to this post. Interesting…I was at the Groundswell launch party this week at Web 2.0, have only skimmed the version I already bought in NY when it came out but generally I like what Forrester are doing on various levels in this space at the moment, except their big prediction by G Oliver Young this week.
    (see my thoughts here: http://www.olivermarks.com/?p=31)

    I wonder how books like Groundswell and just published “Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide” http://snurl.com/25txs [www_oreilly_com] will read in 2 years?

    Thanks for the link to the HB Ideacast interview, just listened, and not sure where the ‘procateur’ idea comes in.

    Josh is talking from a 10,000 foot perspective about pragmatic realities I lived and breathed managing a ‘worldwide studios’ collaboration space at Sony PlayStation for the last couple of years.

    My experience is you absolutely *have* to have very senior understanding and buy in, with a clear agreed vision of strategy and objectives. This is what I do and sounds as though FrogPond have a strong handle on this also. Without this, things deteriorate into factional warfare and blocking, which is endemic in corporations of all sizes.

    ‘Provocation’ doesn’t sit well with the type of diplomacy required to deal with this at all. Ground up adoption doesn’t scale well without clear communication of objectives and boundaries from senior management and can be enormously disruptive and stressful to, for example, the security people who are protecting Intellectual Property.

    for everyone excited about web 20 collaboration in a company someone else is freaked out a fearful. You aren’t going to befriend and reassure them by telling them you’re a provocateur…

  2. Martin Koser says:

    Agreed, you’re making many good points. In fact my proposal of being more “provocative” was a little tongue in cheek. I suppose that the guys at HBR were smiling too when they labeled this show “Social Technology Provocateur”

    But you’re spot on. We must accept realities when planning for the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 – and one central tenet sure is that we can’t reach much without management’s understanding and support. A combined effort of both top-down support and bottom-up grass-roots adoption and promotion is my idea of a perfect setting.

    So, external consultants needn’t be too provocative (or “pushy” as I put it) – and we can’t stand up and act as a veritable change agent. We’re not really parts of the organization. Still having some good ideas and insights ready is cool – maybe someone at the client wants to rock the boat and seeks for advice and support.

  3. Oliver Marks says:

    We’re on the same page, I realize your point better now re-reading this. Was more concerned about whether HBR really got the concepts discussed given what Josh actually says in the interview.

    The more accuracy and the less static around this stuff the better…

  4. Charlie Bess says:

    I was just trying to take the broadest perspective of collaboration from a number of different perspectives. There seem to be many activities that are pulling resources and deliver greater value.

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