2 Types of Collaboration & 10 Requirements for Achieving Them

photoMosaic1_sm.png Collaboration comes in two flavors: Accidental and Intentional. Enterprise 2.0 technologies have become very good at facilitating intentional collaboration. They are meeting us where we are at and linking people across distances, across political spectra, and across expertise domains.

Examples include the social network sites (I friend you, you friend me), Twitter (I follow you and read your stuff - you follow me and read my stuff) and blogs (I write, you read and comment, I answer and write again). In each case the decision to friend, follow and read are intentional. These technologies mimic human interactions that are as old as humanity - making introductions, updating friends followers fans and disciples and public declamation.

While technical mediation of these legacy human communication modes is interesting, it is not where most of the power and potential lie. Accidental collaboration is.

photoMosaic2_sm.png First, let me explain what I mean by accidental collaboration. Accidental Collaboration is when information created for one purpose is found, input, consumed, or influences another purpose. Examples abound in our everyday lives. Any time we perform a Google search or read an old answer on a discussion forum we are accidentally collaborating with the original people who created that item. Consider the infinite photo mosaic. Did the photographers of each picture intend that their work be used as a single pixel in a massively combined work with others? Probably not, and yet the mosaic is something different, unique, and wonderful. We often find ourselves accidentally collaborating with the original work as well as the original context context for which some information was created.

At first blush it may seem underwhelming and prosaic. "Ok," you say, "information can be re-used." Yet if we can create environments where information re-use is consistently enabled then collaborating with others across time, experience, and context becomes the norm. Whenever information does not need to be re-created but can be re-used we gain efficiency and productivity. Whenever business rules and process can be abstracted enough to span different contexts while remaining specific enough to remain useful we free up time to address difficult issues rather than wasting time performing menial tasks again and again and again...

photoMosaic3_sm.png And therein lies the challenge: how to *intentionally* facilitate accidental collaboration.

Ten capabilities are key to creating a technology ecosystem where intentional AND accidental collaboration are not only enabled but also become the norm.

1. Human oriented information (e.g. documents, images) AND machine oriented information (e.g. indexes, transactions) must be *able to be* seamlessly combined.

2. Topic, knowledge and concept clusters must be able to be automatically created, extracted, enhanced and preserved. AIIM findings that 71% of respondents find it easier to find information on the web than in internal systems is a damning indictment of the state of enterprise IT and information management but more importantly, it shows that the public web model of determining relevancy works - inbound links, democratic relevancy, and critical mass. talk about lessons learned.

photoMosaic4_sm.png 3. Usage and context patterns must be able to be automatically created, extracted, enhanced and preserved.

4. Human revisions, annotations and classifications of information must be enabled and preserved.

5. The information must be portable, referencable, and accessible for people and computer systems.

6. The data contained within information artifacts must be accessible by people and machines.

7. The evolution of information artifacts must be tracked, preserved and referencable.

photoMosaic5_sm.png 8. The changing patterns of the *relationships* between data to information artifact, information artifact to context and context to behavior must be tracked analyzed and predicted.

9. Information and data creation patterns must be fully understood so that they can be tapped and woven into the waft and warp of both human and systems based inception patterns.

10. All of the above must be made available back to the end users be they people or computers in context sensitive and persuasive ways.

Collaboration across time and discipline is more than good search engine indexing. It involves discipline, purpose and a strategic view informing tactical execution of techno-ecosystem creation and maintenance. It is not trivial but the payoffs are massive and manifold.

In subsequent weeks we will explore each of these 10 capabilities in detail in order to provide you with a blueprint for how you can create a collaborative ecosystem within your organization.


Hi Billy - as you know, we're closely aligned on this thinking. I particularly appreciate how you've called out the data requirements here. - Deb

Posted by deb lavoy on April 05, 2010 at 11:03 PM CDT #

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Enterprise 2.0 and Content Management


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