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Looking Stupid and Other Risks of Emergent Collaboration

Posted by on August 31, 2011

The topic of risk isn’t new and I’ve discussed it here along with a risk assessment framework.  However the typical types of risks we keep hearing about are those which pertain to the company as an entity.  What about actual risks to employees that work at these organizations?  We haven’t really spent enough time talking about these things have we?  Think about it, what are the risks for employees using these tools at their companies?

One of the biggest risks that employees face is the fear of looking stupid in front of co-workers.  It’s blunt but it’s true, in fact this is the exact wording that was used several times by employees who described their risks to me.  It’s almost silly but at the same time it’s very real, nobody wants to look stupid especially in front of co-workers.  This was a problem that was experienced at Oce when they first rolled out their collaboration tools, nobody wanted to participate because of the fear of being judged and being perceived as being weak and stupid in front of colleagues.

Imagine your an employee at a large company that just rolled out a collaboration platform.  Let’s say you have a few questions on a project your working on or need some help with something, would you be willing to publicly admit your weakness or tell your colleagues and co-workers that you are unable to do something that you were assigned?  The reality is that many employees at companies are not comfortable with sharing such information, especially when many organizations are so competitive with employees going up against each other for the same job.

Other risks that employees personally face are:

  • time and effort needed to learn a new technology which can cause a temporary slow down in productivity
  • not wanting to share information because employees might lose their competitiveness
  • risk of other people taking credit for or using work that employees share

Regardless of how great a product is or how integrated it is into employee workflows, if employees don’t feel comfortable using it for whatever reason then they aren’t going to use it.  Let’s not forget about the very real human and personal aspects of emergent collaboration.

What other risks do you believe employees are faced with?

  • Anonymous

    Great topic.  I agree and see these play out frequently.  I’d be very interested in a follow-up blog dealing with how to solve/mitigate these risks.  I’ve seen many colleagues have an unwillingness to simply “put themselves out there” even within our own department.  A couple suggestions: 1) Make sure leadership sets the example.  Nothing says “it’s okay” better than when leadership demonstrates they don’t have all the answers either.  2) Provide a safe environment for collaboration.  This is firmly a culture issue, and isn’t an easy road if you don’t already have it.

  • Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.