smileguide 7: Collaboration is all around us

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In your heart you know that the time has come to leave the “digital coffee machine” behind and get collaboration going on your enterprise social network (ESN).

What you still can’t figure out is how to convince your colleagues to start using the platform not only for their conversations but also to run their projects and organise workflows.

In the Guide I have written as part of the SMiLE series, I explore what communicators need to do to move from the Conversation to the Collaboration Era.

It is a battle we have to fight on two fronts. We have to convince senior management of the benefits of using ESNs to digitally enable work processes and we have to motivate employees to give up control of their projects and trust the community to help them run them.

Collaboration is all around us

Both tasks however might be easier than we think. Collaboration is all around us. It is happening in our lives in the form of the Sharing Economy. People around the world are leveraging technology to share resources like accommodation, jobs or vehicles. Every night some 200,000 people worldwide stay in Airbnb rooms. Over 25,000 use TaskRabbit to earn a living making between US$ 5,000 and 8,000 a month by doing 3-5 tasks a day.

The Sharing Economy is turning customers into peers. Because employees are experiencing this phenomenon in their private lives, they are becoming more open to collaboration in the enterprise. In order to be able to promote collaboration, communicators need to understand the core behaviours that drive it.

In the Beginning was the talk then came the walk

There are usually two moments in the life on an ESN, conversation and collaboration. In the first, employees learn to trust the platform and begin to look at it as a place where they can have an open dialogue with colleagues and superiors alike. They learn to share resources and tap into the network to collect ideas and get the right inspiration for their work.

In the Guide, I give different examples of this behaviour from interactive newsletters to ideation. The Communication Era is instrumental in laying the foundations for collaboration to happen. That’s when, as McKinsey puts it in one of their reports, technology like ESN is “baked into employees’ day-to-day workflows”.

In the Collaboration Era, ESN enabled processes make it possible for employees to run conventional projects in a new way.

In the Guide, I talk about companies sharing resources with clients on an ESN, comms departments changing the way they conduct staff surveys, product development happening in innovation communities.

Getting collaboration right is essential as this is often how companies can demonstrate the value that ESNs add. In the Guide, we provide a 7 stage roadmap to help communicators speed up the move to the Collaboration Era.

This covers points like getting leaders’ support for roll-outs, addressing pain points and rewarding successful behaviours.

I talked about Collaboration at my recent webinar with Brendan Cosgrove, Product Manager in Collaborative Social Technologies at Zimbra.