What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.

Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose. It exists in two forms:

Synchronous, where everyone interacts in real time, as in online meetings, through instant messaging, or via Skype, and
Asynchronous, where the interaction can be time-shifted, as when uploading documents or annotations to shared workspaces, or making contributions to a wiki
Shared workspaces are among the most visible entries in the collaboration space. Aimed at rolling document and application sharing up with chat and perhaps versioning and other auditing capabilities, they may have more or fewer features, and may be available either for license or on a syndicated basis “in the cloud,” as they say. Google Docs is a notable example of the latter, Microsoft SharePoint and EMC Documentum eRoom of the former.

Wikis are perhaps best thought of as online encyclopedias or “how-to” manuals. They are applications that let users freely create, edit, and reorganize content using a Web browser. Perhaps the most visible example of this breed is Wikipedia, and variants exist throughout enterprises of all kinds and sizes.

The plus and the minus of wikis are that more or less anyone can enter anything into the resource – so while they’re a great way to capture and share what people know, they also must be vetted to ensure nothing erroneous gets planted within (intentionally or otherwise). The good news is that, over time, active wikis tend to be of fairly high quality due to the self-policing nature of an engaged user base.

Collaboration at the conceptual level, involves:
Awareness – We become part of a working entity with a shared purpose
Motivation – We drive to gain consensus in problem solving or development
Self-synchronization – We decide as individuals when things need to happen
Participation – We participate in collaboration and we expect others to participate
Mediation – We negotiate and we collaborate together and find a middle point
Reciprocity – We share and we expect sharing in return through reciprocity
Reflection – We think and we consider alternatives
Engagement – We proactively engage rather than wait and see

Collaboration relies on openness and knowledge sharing but also some level of focus and accountability on the part of the business organizations. Governance should be established addressing the creation and closing of team workspaces with assignment of responsibility for capturing the emergent results of the collaborative effort.

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