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Collaboration and the Online Dating Syndrome

Posted by on March 31, 2014


Anyone that has tried online dating can tell you that the person you see online isn’t always the same person that you see in real life. See, the problem with online dating is that people can make themselves look like anyone they want online.  This is the same problem with many organizations today.

Organizations today are overly enamored with collaboration solutions, sharing, and the future of work.  They say they want employees to share, to communicate across silos, to innovate, to collaborate and be open, and to be empowered (and oh so much more!)  To do this, many companies deploy a collaboration technology, throw some training around it, and maybe get an executive to speak at a Town Hall meeting or prepare a video about why this new direction is so important. This is the equivalent to telling people you’re 6’1″ and a lean 170 lbs, have a successful career as a corporate executive, and drive a Porsche, when in reality you’re 5’6,” 195 lbs, unemployed, and drive a Honda.

If your company: rewards only individual performance, uses stack ranking, has annual employee reviews, forces employees to wear a suit and tie to work, has people in cubicles, forces employees to get permission for every expense, employs a strict hierarchy, treats executives like mythical unicorns that should looked up with awe and worship, and then deploys collaboration platforms in an attempt to get everyone to share; well then you are working at an organization that is clearly experiencing the online syndrome and need to be brought back to reality.  You can’t tell employees to act one way online while encouraging a completely different type of behavior in real life.

The key here is that the online version of your company needs to emulate the physical version of your company.  In the scenario mentioned above do you think anyone would be willing to share or collaborate?  Absolutely not!  Digital transformation starts with the physical world.  Start making changes that go beyond technology to see results.  Here are just a few of many things you can explore:

  • Get rid of cubicles and go with open space
  • Instead of a strict hierarchy encourage employees to communicate with other departments or employees with varying seniority levels
  • Go for real-time feedback instead of annual reviews
  • Forget getting every single expenses approve by managers, employees should be able to buy pens or a desk!
  • Create innovation jam sessions
  • Integrate collaboration into the vision or mission of the company
  • Get rid of your managerial titles
  • Encourage vulnerability in the workforce
  • Experiment with flexible work environments

I’m sure you can think of a hundred other things that can be done at your organization, but why isn’t anyone doing them?  You have to create the type of environment and corporate culture that will support and encourage the behaviors that you want to see in the workplace; otherwise nobody will want date you.