In technologies for collaboration and cooperation I looked at how the differences between structured/informal and goal/opportunity oriented activities influence the design of the work/learning environment.
Work Teams need to get things done. An effective collaborative work team integrates work and learning while focused on delivering products or services. Open communications, keeping processes as simple as possible, releasing and testing often – all make sense in an increasingly complex workplace.
Learning Networks, on the other hand, have to be personal or they won’t get used. However, they have a great value to the organization as a whole by being on the periphery and embracing chaos. Another benefit of online, open personal learning networks is to promote critical thinking.
Communities of Practice are an in-between place – lightly structured with general goals and open to opportunities. Successful online communities are run with a gentle hand.
Work is enabled by these three structures and I would venture to guess that, in complex environments, it is hampered by not employing all three. Imagine a small work team producing a deliverable on a deadline for a client, where some of the members of that team are providing advice and information to other teams on related projects. Meanwhile, other team members working with a larger and looser network in identifying new business opportunities. The entire organization is more effective through networked and social learning.
Organizations need to allow for collaborative and cooperative communications and activities, and not constrain knowledge work with too much structure.