Many enterprises are struggling to adapt and evolve with today's changes and culture and technology. Social media consultant Jacob Morgan's new book, The Collaborative Organization: A Strategic Guide to Solving Your Internal Business Challenges Using Emerging Social and Collaborative Tools, takes on this challenge, providing a comprehensive strategy guide to emergent collaboration in the workplace. In anticipation of our upcoming webinar Making Enterprise Collaboration Work, we sat down with Jacob for some Q & A.
Who inside a company would most benefit from the advice given in your book?
The book is written for those interested in workplace collaboration or who is in the process of deploying collaboration solutions. It is a vendor agnostic book that can positively impact any business. It was written for a senior level executive or decision maker but is also crucial reading for anyone who is an employee.
What type of collaboration tends to be most effective for sustaining a company and helping it grow: in-person collaboration, digital collaboration or a mix of the two?
You always need a bit of a mix between the two. Digital collaboration is great for things such as scale and managing information but there is no substitute to a face-to-face conversation or a handshake.
As you state in your book, many businesses have offices in different, even global, locations; digital collaboration tends to be less personal and indirect. How can companies mitigate this and help form stronger, more personal ties between locations?
It's actually the weak ties that tend to be more valuable across enterprises because weak ties are the bridges between departments and geographies. Chances are that if you ask someone for something with whom you have a strong tie, you will have a strong overlap in terms of who that person knows and what he has access to. When you build weak ties - that is when you get access to new information, new ideas, new people, and new opportunities. The challenge for many global companies is that they have NO ties at all!
It's not possible to maintain strong ties with everyone at a company, which is why weak ties are so valuable.
You talk about new collaboration technology. When is it right to think technology and when do you need to start with your specific business needs? What is the top risk associated with adopting social collaboration technology and how do companies avoid it?
Both the business need and the technology need to be thought out concurrently. They fuel one another. You can't simply deploy a technology and assume your company will become collaborative, but at the same time focusing on the business side without addressing technology leaves room for improvement. You have to enable, not just educate, and a big part of enablement comes from technology. Employees need to see and use the platforms and understand the possibilities and opportunities.
What, in your opinion, is the number one mistake made by companies in the realm of collaboration and how can they mend this?
There are a few: lacking the proper leadership support (not just budget, but those who use the platform and encourage employees), deploying a technology before understanding why and the full benefits, and missing ways to support collaboration within the enterprise, outside of just technological deployment.
Who are the leaders in adopting social collaboration approaches and technology? What is their secret to success?
There are many companies doing great things but I can safely say there is no "secret sauce" among any of them. Every company has a unique set of business problems, approaches, technologies, strategies, etc. In some companies, this initiative comes from executives, in others, it comes from mid-level employees. In some companies, this starts out as a pilot deployed across the enterprise. It's a chess game and no two games played are ever the same. Some of my favorite companies include TELUS, Lowe's, Unisys, and Yum! Brands.
In your book, you state that e-mail is incorrectly used and has become a pseudo instant messenger. Where do you think e-mail should be embraced in a company (if at all) for effective communication and collaboration?
Email used to be for asynchronous communication. Someone sent you a message and you responded when you could (usually within 24 hours or so). Now we just wait for emails and respond to them. We get emails for everything and we are notified via push notifications when we receive them. It's gotten to the point where we have to get notified that there is a note waiting for us. It's similar to me calling you on the phone to tell you that I left you a voicemail. The second we get an email we respond to it and then we get another email right back; what was once used as form of asynchronous communication has become a glorified chat messaging tool!
But for most companies, email is not going to away anytime soon as it is one of the few unique identifying variables for people. It's funny to think that even our names can't set us apart anymore, but our emails can!