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Is Collaborating, Listening, or Engaging Always a Good Thing?

Posted by on January 29, 2010

Before reading on ask yourself this questions, is collaborating, engaging, or listening always a good thing?

Collaboration can take many forms either within a company or between a company and it’s customers and prospects.  However, as Morten Hansen says in his book Collaboration, there is no point in collaborating just for collaboration’s sake.  The whole point of any type of collaboration is always to meet a business need or objective.  This means that if you have departments or individuals collaborating but you aren’t seeing your business objectives met that there is potentially a problem.  The key to collaboration is action and this applies as much to Enterprise 2.0 as it does to external facing social media efforts.

When thinking about “listening” or engaging, again the important thing is not to listen or engage, it’s to gain ACTIONABLE insight (and to empower your customers and your team).  It’s important to make this distinction both when making the case for collaboration (or listening/engaging) and when measuring the results of these efforts.  There is no point in trying to sell a listening tool, engagement strategy, or collaboration initiative unless you can also sell the business objectives that you are going to meet.  Instead of saying “we are going to build a community around brand XYZ,” finish the sentence and say something like, “we are going to build a community around XYZ that is going to help us decrease market research costs which are currently rising,” or, “we are going to implement an internal collaboration platform to help unify our brand, improve productivity, and increase our rate of innovation; all problems that we are currently struggling with.”

There are a few key things to point out here:

  • Don’t sell collaboration (or anything else for that matter), sell the ability to meet a business objective (s)
  • When selling or looking to show results, make sure you have a solid understanding of the problem that you are looking to solve

Without action, collaboration, engaging, listening, and everything your company is looking to do is fruitless.

  • You need to consider if it is a good idea to collaborate, case by case.It is your reputation on the line as well and if it does not work out as planned, you will suffer from it as well.In the internet world, being unique and one of a kind is more important than doing what everyone else is doing.

  • A lot of companies say things like:
    * WHAT should we do for collaboration?

    The first and most import question they should ask themselves is:
    * WHY should we collaborate?

    If they answer the WHY question first, then it will become more obvious as to what they should be doing about collaboration.

  • Whereas collaborating for collaboration sake seems like the wrong way of selling the idea that collaboration is a good idea, I'd caution that the act of collaborating builds trust and teamwork. It is for this reason that so many companies have things like a softball team, a summer outing, holiday party, or monthly birthday cake ritual. These silly little things are an important part of forging bonds between workers. It gets us to see each other as people, to learn more about us, to engender trust, and to care about helping others. These are valuable too. Many companies that implement intranet collaboration tools tell me that they do allow some amount of non-work banter — just 'cuz it is healthy. (e.g. the proverbial water cooler is there for a reason). I'd agree that you don't lead with this as the pitch, but I'd suggest that if a company misses this, and only encourages task/purpose focused collaboration, they will miss out on opportunities. Of course, when focusing on this side of the collaboration benefits equation, a company might want to limit or at least monitor the activity so that it does not erode the more tangible benefits of getting work done. JMO

    • Always good to hear your thoughts Gil. You do make a solid point and that is that the fostering of bonds is just as crucial as meeting business objectives. I suppose the challenge then becomes how to create these bonds while also meeting business needs.

  • sammynams

    SO True! I sometimes wonder if there is an addition to meetings/collaboration in the corporate world. As if meeting enough times will create any action. Good read.

  • sammynams

    SO True! I sometimes wonder if there is an addition to meetings/collaboration in the corporate world. As if meeting enough times will create any action. Good read.