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Social and Business Collaboration: A Human Science

As our businesses become more complex, it’s up to all of us to work harder at humanizing our approach in everything we do. On top of this, as businesses become more social, collaboration is becoming the most critical business competitive advantage. An efficiently run collaborative company isn’t just more nimble; its collective intelligence can innovate faster than any time before. As social enterprises are changing the rules for employees, new tools are helping to break the barrier for disconnected internal structures, giving employees more contextual control. This new contextualization empowers humans to interact naturally in a way that makes sense to them, supported by internal systems – instead of forcing systems to try to make people interact in a way that seems very impersonal and removed from our innate voice.

Earlier this month, I got a chance to sit down and chat with the CEO of Selectica, Blaine Mathieu. I am really intrigued, because Selectia has managed to provide contract management solutions for companies that have complex contracting environments. If you think about it, the legalities that thread together everything we do serves as the foundation for running at peak operational performance. While this legal operations role may seem like a small part of the bigger picture, the outcomes and ramifications, if done incorrectly, prohibit profitable participation in the underlying collaborative economy that faces every company today. According to Blaine, his largest challenge is “taking something as intricate as contract management and looking at how people interact in order to help them work more efficiently.” Given my belief in humanizing our processes and procedures in all we do, this immediately resonated with me.

Our conversation grew from there into how to grow companies to be global collaboration leaders, through their people, process and technology. Blaine explained to me that many of the tools used today by social enterprises are taking the best aspects of accessibility and ease of usage from social platforms, such as your Twitter and Facebook. “If employees are able to follow projects and people, it will ultimately streamline the working process, it’s that simple. The ultimate goal for any company is to work across company silos in order to perform and complete larger tasks on scale with ease.”

Digitizing the once traditional process, such as contract management, to emulate the offline human interactions and systems is no small task, says Blaine.

“Ultimately, it’s about empowering the employees to run systems themselves. It’s not a robot that will do tasks for them. At the end of the day, people are negotiating and communicating with people. That can’t be automated. Systems and technology are simply a protector to empower them to do that more freely and easily. More importantly, people need to know when they’re crossing one of these constraints or boundaries that they wouldn’t know otherwise.”

Think of the sheer size and volume of the collaborative environments and outdated systems we currently use in corporate America – most notably, email. Email is now the dinosaur when it comes to collaboration. It may have been the go-to tool during our generation, but college grads coming out of school that are used to working in real time collaboration are much different workers. They grew up as active participants in the social revolution, so they look at email much differently than we do. Email collaboration is no longer considered real time; instead, our communication sits there waiting for someone to check it, if at all. This next generation of business professionals will change the company culture, and begin to shift the concept of cultural social collaboration, forcing organizations to adapt this new bottom-up system. Blaine said confidently “we will see CEO’s demand these new tools into their company and create change so that everyone is adapting at the same rate. 15 years from now, we will look back and laugh at the old ways of email, ‘once upon a time’ being a collaborative tool.”

Facing changes like this are daunting but doable, yet integration is only as good as the preparation and planning that goes into it. This is especially true when clients enter into new technology relationships expecting their new systems to be running within a week. But the secret is, technology isn’t the greatest deterrent in social collaboration change. The biggest challenge is understanding human behavior as a baseline, and the specific human behavior of your corporate culture, then designing new systems to fit this behavior to increase its chance of adoption. It becomes in essence, a mission to understand your company’s internal behavior and adapting these behaviors to the actions, interactions and gamification models….not the other way around.

As Blaine put it simply, these changes are focused on cloud, mobile, and real time interaction as the next wave of “seamless user-friendly collaboration.” My friend Jeremiah Owyang, CEO of Crowd Companies, says something similar, backing Blaine’s approach that “it’s about integrating the offline world with the online into a seamless interaction. This is the new Sharing Economy.”

KEY TAKEAWAY: By having full transparency from the inside out, we are enabling the long-term adoption of true employee advocacy, collaborative communication and brand humanization. Now is the time for business to walk the talk and become social business, by taking cues from the next wave of working professionals and investing in more efficient, human ways to work together.

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  • Andy Newbom's picture
    Apr 11 Posted 10 months ago Andy Newbom

    nice stuff there Bryan!