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How Collaborative Organizations can Make the World a Better Place

Posted by on November 15, 2011

You can all me an idealist, a purist, a crazy person, or perhaps a combination of all three, but at the end of the day I believe that collaborative organizations make the world a better place.  “The Collaborative Organization” is the title of my upcoming book for McGraw Hill and is on deploying emergent collaborative tools and strategies within organizations (for employees).  I know it sounds a bit crazy right?  I mean after all how can helping employees collaborate and engage with each make the world a better place?

I’ll start by saying that a majority of the workforce at organizations is not engaged.  According to a Gallup poll, around 71% of employees at American companies are not engaged in their jobs.  According to Gallup, engaged employees feel a connection to their company and work with a sense of passion.  How sad is it that so many employees (at least in American companies) are not passionate about the work they do and don’t feel connected to their companies?  It’s like we’re creating a new breed of drones.  I can’t imagine how I would function in such an environment.

I know a lot of people talk about engagement metrics and productivity metrics, but I don’t really believe these are “engagement” metrics; these are simply “activity” metrics or “busy” metrics.  Just because an employee submits ideas, participates in discussions, starts some work groups, and leaves a few comments on an internal collaboration platform; in my opinion, does not make them engaged.  Why?  Because these metrics don’t mean that the employee feels connected to the company or is passionate about the work they do.  Oftentimes employees do these activities because it’s in their job description.  I believe that “engagement” in and of itself isn’t a quantitative metric – it’s a qualitative emotional metric.  If I had to pick one single metric to look at to gauge the success of collaboration in the workplace that one metric would be something like company morale or an “engagement” metric determined by surveying or asking employees how connected they feel to the company and how passionate they are about their jobs.  Telstra, a large telecommunications company (that I’m writing a case study on) uses a metric called “likelihood-to recommend” which is a simple metric that looks how many employees would refer their friends and/or colleagues to work at Telstra, that to me (and to many companies) is engagement.

Active employees aren’t necessarily engaged with the company, but employees that are engaged at work I believe are more active.  In other words activity is the effect and happiness or engagement is the cause.  We spend a lot of time looking at the effect without understanding the cause and therein lies the problem.

So what does all of this have to do with making the world a better place?  If businesses are able to engage their employees and allow them to more effectively collaborate with each other, what happens?  I believe the following:

Employees will:

  • Feel more inspired or happier at work and about their jobs
  • Become more productive
  • Build networks of passion and interest
  • Feel challenged and encouraged
  • Feel as though they work with a sense of purpose
  • Contribute more ideas which lead to opportunities that the organization can leverage (revenue generation and cost savings)
  • Help each other at work

This is what happens to employees while at work, but think about what happens to these same employees when they leave work at the end of the day?  I believe these same employees:

  • Will be less stressed out at home
  • Will spend more time with family and loved ones
  • Will live their lives with greater zeal and passion
  • Will worry less about work related issues as they will have the ability to work from anywhere and know that they can get access to the right people and information the need

In short, I believe that we as people will get more time to spend on and think about the things that really matter.  Perhaps this will lead to less violence, less domestic abuse, fewer cases of divorce, and less discord in general.  Or perhaps, I’m just crazy and this will do absolutely nothing.

All I know is that when I see and meet people who feel connected with what they do and work with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, or when I see and meet people that feel inspired and are, well…happy with their lives, they light up when they speak, they enjoy life more and in my opinion, they are better people.

This is one of the reasons why I do what I do – trying to change the world by building one collaborative organization at a time.

  • Hi Jacob, I wouldn’t call you crazy. I agree with most of you thoughts. I think to create a collaborative organization is the basic requirement for future organiszations. I would try to add a “higher sense” in work and a shared value.