Barriers to Collaboration

In Why Businesses Don’t Collaborate, Stewart Mader and Scott Abel ask 523 workers about their information sharing habits. In reading through the responses and sample comments, it becomes obvious that there are two technologies that limit workplace collaboration – e-mail & meetings. Both can do certain tasks well but these “technologies” have become overused and abused.

Most of us who work with social media already know that e-mail can be replaced by more appropriate tools such as wikis, instant messaging, blogs or micro-blogs for a number of tasks. Also, we free-agents know only too well how much time we’ve saved by being outside an organization and not having to attend useless meetings [I would say that by avoiding meetings & commuting, I gain 2-3 hours of productivity per day].

Some highlights from Why Businesses Don’t Collaborate (PDF):

The comments indicate that people consider email a significant time management issue, and the important information often gets lost in the volume of email.

… people … recognize that trying to conduct group collaboration and revision by email is not optimal.

75% of respondents … know that a wiki can be used for documents that require group input …

Only 6% regularly request changes to a meeting agenda.

A simple strategy to give workers some time back would be to require that all meetings have agendas (on a wiki) with accompanying minutes. Then take one task that is currently done by e-mail (request for input) and replace it with a wiki, blog or other more suitable medium. These are just two small steps that could save a lot of time and frustration.

3 Responses to “Barriers to Collaboration”

  1. Simon Bostock

    The problem here – for me at least, and I’m not exactly the greatest traditionalist on the planet – is perspective. Until I left the organisation I just didn’t ‘feel’ how tragic this waste was.

    Email is sometimes the only place where people feel they have control over their documents, I’ve found. They email themselves all their work as attachments so they can get it at home and so they don’t have to conform to some ridiculous IA imposed by IT.

    Meetings are a mystery to me. I think part of the solution to this is to replace them with a new technology that feels just as important. We’ve got the email replacements all wrong in the past because we haven’t learned how to do in-the-flow stuff as well as people can do it with email. Equally, we need something that’s above-the-flow – with added pomp and circumstance – that will replace meetings.

  2. Paul McConaughy (@minutrition)

    I wonder how much space, heating and cooling, electric could be saved if the rooms that contain the worthless meetings weren’t needed. Less space to build or lease.


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