Collaboration is huge right now, with organisations of all types attempting to get more out of their employees by encouraging them to interact with each other. Of course, this isn’t a new thing. Knowledge management has been established as a discipline since the early 90′s. With the rise of social tools however it has gained new momentum.
It’s seen the likes of LunchRoulette form with the aim of increasing serendipitous connections between employees. The aim is that these random connections will spark new insights, which in turn will see new products created or better processes.
Some companies are going so far as to force the whole affair. They’re using big data to work out the probability that two employees paths will cross, and then manipulating circumstances to improve those odds.
The likes of Google and Zappos are redesigning their office space to encourage/force these random encounters that will supposedly trigger innovation.
The problem is, it all seems a bit random, like connecting for the sake of connecting. Sure, some good might come out of it, but there might also be a lot of time wasted talking to people that don’t offer each other much.
Don’t get me wrong, reaching outside of your bubble is a fine thing, and the best innovations are often already in practice in other fields, so increasing that level of awareness is without doubt beneficial. I’m just far from convinced that doing so on such an ad hoc basis works.
There are very few studies showing the ROI of these attempts at collaboration, and it’s pretty naive to hope that prodding people to converse around the coffee machine will ensure magic results.
There are generally speaking three types of collaboration, all of which have something you can measure.
- More sales
- More innovation (ie new products)
- Better processes
All of these have a clear output that can be used to determine how effective you’ve been at collaborating. If you don’t know what it is you’re hoping to achieve then it kinda brings to mind the message of the Cheshire Cat, that if you don’t know where you want to go, it really doesn’t matter which path you take.