Apr 11, 2011

What Is Social Collaboration in an Organization



My friend Prem blogs wondering what is social collaboration. He writes

The role power in a matrix organization is vastly diminished. Expertise power helps to a certain extent, but then in high performance/stakes teams everybody is going to be an expert of something or the other. The only other power left is relationship power. One negotiates using the relationship power to get things done. Reciprocity is a bigger coin than orders. No more command and control.

and then ends with the question:

Given this logic, what does 'social collaboration' mean? Where people collaborate outside of the contractual obligations? Which means outside of the role structures & job descriptions in the organization? Typical of a matrix organization, no?
What do you think? What are your views on 'social collaboration' and 'role power' in a collaborative enterprise (a bit more complex than a matrix organization)?

Well we call Qontext a social collaboration platform and wikipedia defines it as 

processes that help multiple people interact, share information to achieve any common goal. Such processes find their 'natural' environment on the internet, where collaboration and social dissemination of information are made easier by current innovations.

So what's the difference between collaboration and social collaboration? In my opinion, while collaboration in the traditional sense refers to picking whom you want to reach out to, sharing your assumptions, objectives and negotiating with him/her, arriving at a consensus and going forth. There is a project mindset, and an approach that knows who the expert is.

The thought goes like this (in a consulting firm), "I need to send a proposal on Entry to a Market Strategy for an Emerging Country for a Consumer Durable firm". The person then searches for data around the experts of Market Strategy, Emerging Countries and the Industry expert in Consumer Durables. He then finds time with all of them, gets their inputs, negotiates time with them and their availability, and then they work together to make the proposal.

The one aspect IMHO social collaboration is different, is that it is emergent. I'll share a recent example on our Qontext internal network. I shared a URL with the bookmarking feature and alerted two people in the firm who might have been interested in the website. One of them responded with a comment on the bookmark that we should do something like what the website said and then I volunteered that I could spearhead that initiative. After this whatever happens would be "traditional collaboration". The social tools helped us to recognize a need and then collaboration would take place.

I don't really know what Prem means by "relationship power". The closest type of power is "referent power" (in the five bases of power) which is more identified by charisma to influence.

However I'd classify this behavior not as any kind of power but a serendipitous outcome based on people's need to get psychological rewards (likes, comments) from their peers and colleagues.

What do you think?

Let's dig into this deeper....collaboratively !

At a groundbreaking ceremony