Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The collaboration pyramid (or iceberg)




The majority of the value-creation activities in an enterprise are hidden. They happen below the surface. What we see when we think of collaboration in the traditional sense (structured team-based collaboration) is the tip of the iceberg – teams who are coordinating their actions to achieve some goal. We don’t see - and thus don’t recognize - all the activities which have enabled the team to form and which help them throughout their journey. We see the people in the team, how they coordinate their actions and the results of their actions, but we rarely see the other things which have been critical for their success. For example, we don’t see how they have used their personal networks to access knowledge, information and skills which they don’t have in their team already but which are instrumental for their success.



The layers which are below the surface are usually not recognized or valued. Below the surface you typically find:
  • The direct and indirect contributions from people outside the team – by the extended team, stakeholders and external contributors
  • Other kinds of broader and ad hoc collaboration (social collaboration) than those that fit within the traditional definition of (structured, team-based) collaboration
  • The ongoing community building that makes people trust each other and commit themselves to a shared purpose
  • The efforts of gaining the workspace awareness that is necessary for making the right decisions in any collaborative effort
Bring those above the surface so they can be recognized and supported. If people can't do those things, even the traditional collaboration efforts will suffer or might not even happen. If we are to improve efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative efforts, we need to better support these layers.

The first step towards improving these layers of collaboration and support other kinds of collaboration is to recognize their existence and value.