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Who Said Online Collaboration Was Easy?

We all know that two minds are better than one, yet despite this, successful collaboration remains elusive. Successful collaboration is difficult to achieve. This is primarily because of a common misunderstanding: namely that if companies purchase collaboration software, employees will readily adopt it. The illusion created by this thought is not true. Just because you have the infrastructure, does not mean that people will readily adopt it. Creating a successful collaborative environment takes time and work.

Over the weekend I came across an article from that addresses this issue. In it, they offer several suggestions to help create that collaborative environment everyone so desires. They cite four “steps” to fostering collaboration:

1)  The Invitation
The invitation lays the foundation for success. When crafting the invitation, it’s important to keep in mind they types of people you want to collaborate with and consider how best to appeal to them. The success of acquiring these early adopters is an important aspect in instilling a collaborative culture. Usually early adopters are influential individuals, so appealing to them is important to set the correct tone.

2) The Tools
Selecting the right collaboration tools goes hand in hand with the types of individuals you ultimately want to collaborate with. They key to a successful adoption is to select a tool that appeals to the individuals you want to get on board. Inviting social media fanatics to collaborate on a wiki project, or fans of real time chat to contribute to a blog is just making things hard for yourself.

3) Demonstrate Stewardship
To foster a collaborative environment, it’s important to create a space of sharing and engagement. Transparency, flexibility and generously are all important here. It’s also important that someone assumes the task of stewardship. You need someone to watch over and steer the evolving discussion by providing perspectives on where the discussion is at, and what needs to be achieved to complete the project.

4) Patience
Being the steward on a successful community takes more than creating a space. It takes patience and persistence to grow that space. While these are good points, I don’t totally agree with all of them. For example, it is certainly easier to cater your collaboration tools to those people readily use; I think this does not preclude the use of others. If you can show a blogger the benefits of using social media, it’s safe to assume that they will adopt that platform, provided a low cost of adoption. Similarly, having a collaboration steward seems like a good idea, but select the wrong person and instead of fostering an evolution of the conversation you can quickly end up stifling it.

Regardless, when it comes to creating successful collaboration it’s safe to assume that it requires a mix of skills, time and leadership.

Your Turn
Do you think having a successful collaboration is something that takes work to create?

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