06 September 2013
I recently attended a really interesting Future Forum event run by the Cisco and the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce. It was interesting for two reasons 1) the topic – ‘How to get the most from business collaboration tools’ and 2) how the evening was run.
First – how the session was run… It was a ‘conversation’! I went in expecting the usual ‘chat – sit – listen –chat’ structure used at most networking events. Instead David Gurteen ran the evening using his unique ‘Knowledge Café’ process. There is much thought behind its format but in essence we were given a question and then left to talk about it. That’s it. No long presentations. No aimless chatter. Instead we had a conversation where interesting people expressed interesting points of view about and around the topic. And do you know what? We all learned something new that was relevant to each of us, here and now.
As for the topic, we talked about how to get the most out of collaboration tools. Now for those who know me, you know that I am a fan of technology ONLY if it helps me to do something faster or more easily (… or is ‘pretty’… yes I still love my iPhone). The conversations I was involved in started by looking at which of the many collaboration tools worked well. But it soon became apparent that the tool itself was not the point. Successful collaboration tools were those that helped ‘real’ or virtual’ groups of people to achieve something. For example Twitter was the collaboration tool of choice during the Arab Spring. People had a common cause – the overthrow of the regime, and a common set of performance indicators ie not to be beaten up by the police. Twitter allowed people to communicate quickly, simply and effectively. No one ‘taught’ them how to use the ‘tool’ and yet it was great collaboration… between hundreds of thousands of people… in real time.
So what did I learn about my passion of ‘managing change’? For me it was a reaffirmation of some fundamental aspects about successful change:
1. Having a clear purpose or goal is key, otherwise ‘collaboration’ is a ‘nice to have’ tick-box process rather than a great way to improve something about your organisation (inside or out)
2. The ‘tool’ is not the point. Whether it’s meeting in a room, Twitter or Cisco Jabber, whatever mechanism you choose needs to be really simple. As one person said – if you have to ‘teach’ people how to use the tool first then you have already lost the battle (think the first iphone!)
3. My good old ‘WIFFM’ still holds true…. What’s in it for me? Employees are smart. They will use whatever behaviours they get recognised for. If you want me to collaborate then make sure the company values about collaboration are reinforced at every turn, from how my boss acts to how people behave in team meetings to what I am rewarded for at my annual performance review.
Final thought: if you are thinking about investing in a new collaboration tool then think about people and behaviours first. Your current tools may be just fine, if only they were used!
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