Collaboration: convergence to create new value

Do a Google search on “collaboration” and the majority of hits you generate will actually be about collaboration tools or software, not the activity of collaboration. This is similar to the concept of customer relationship management. Search for that phrase and you end up with a litany of CRM software tools.  I would not suggest collaboration or CRM technologies are not good tools to have, but they are just that: tools.

Collaboration is about people. These people may represent organizations and do so well, but ultimately organizational action is all about people acting – acting individually, acting in cooperation with others, and collaborating, the latter being the highest expression of organzational and thus indivual action.

Ironically, a definition of collaboration I favor is offered up in a survey report by Cisco Systems (source link). The authors suggest that collaboration is an “open-ended series of interactions intended to go beyond individual strengths to create a new source of value.” 

The “open-ended series of interactions” component of the definition speaks to the fact that people who come together to leverage their talents, experience, and resources not only are unable to predict the outcome(s) of their interactions but know (or should know) such a convergence can create, new knowledge, new thinking, and new behaviors that cannot be restrained by policy, bureacracy, or other authoritarian filters and constraints.

This is why people want to collaborate and why people are afraid to collaborate. True collaboration cannot be controlled. It can be denied or blocked, but once  alive it is its own creature.

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