Monday, February 8, 2016

Dynamic Collaboration--Removing Boundaries and Expanding Horizons

In the previous post, I mentioned that the way we do collaboration needs to change and become more dynamic and global in its outlook. In the past, collaborative groups were organized "in-house" and involved employee groups tasked with a particular problem. Access to a SME was an important element of the plan and the ID's had the responsibility of establishing a rapport with the SME's so that the designed collaborative plan would have a good chance of producing positive results. At that time, the outreach beyond the walls of the organization might be by teleconference and satellite linkups to branch offices. This was useful for delivering training or sharing important data on which an organization could make sound business decisions.

As mentioned in the previous post, the world indeed changed and this change was manifested in two ways:

  1. With the growth of technology, especially as it related to doing business using the Internet as a medium, the "in-house walls" came down. The boundaries that previously defined the area of pursuing business were not only removed but the access to important markets and strategic data needed in order to compete in such a medium, accelerated. The natural consequence was an organizational rush to position their organizations to compete in a globally connected collaborative digital economy. The great challenge facing organizations was to overcome organizational inertia and the changing of an entrenched mindset that said:"We have always done things this way" to a mindset that now said: "How can we engage our employees to be effective learners of new online skillsets and thus establish our organization as one that is dynamically focused on innovative thinking?"
  2. The second shift or change was the realization that real world problems have become more complex and that we have more immediate access to ongoing information about them in real time than what we were able to accomplish in the past. This means that maintaining a strong relationship with our SME may not be enough for us to be successful. The reason is that working in an online environment highlights the importance of critical thinking skills both in the navigation on the web but also the search, analysis and interpretation of accessed data. Also, the need for more than one skillset derived from a multitude of other disciplines to focus on a tasked problem can not be derived from the skillsets of one individual, especially if you require high quality interpretation of a tasked problem and innovative solutions.

Out of necessity in operating in such an environment, the way we collaborate has to change to utilize the great potential that the environment offers. The use of social media as a tool for establishing effective online branding for an organization should not be underestimated. Tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn are global in out reach and can raise the visibility of an organization and establish its brand much more quickly than even many well planned out advertising campaigns that ignore such a tool. Crowd sourcing has also been a useful tool for moving "start-ups" forward on a solid financial footing.

How Should Collaboration Change?

 The following are merely suggestions to promote thoughtful engagement:

  1. Importance of an Effective Dynamic Learning Culture: We live and work in an information and learning age that puts a high value on the creation of new knowledge and skillsets. Unlike the past when content was king, something of greater value is learning how to think and use the resources and information that resides on the web. This means that it is better to nurture and reward the learning skills of employees than to expose them to countless hours of PowerPoint content and demand them to memorize it or else. If our goal is to have employees who naturally want to learn more, seek to collaborate with others to solve problems and be innovative to the benefit of the organization, then engagement needs to be fueled by the intrinsic motivation of the individual and not by extrinsic motivators that use the "carrot or the stick" mentality.
  2. Hiring Practices: HR departments have followed a tried and true method for new hiring since business organizations have been in existence and had started to grow. However, with the opening up of the World Wide Web to business, competition for talent increased exponentially. This means that the search for talent just took on a new level. It is not enough to post employment opportunities, collect resumes, go through a selection process, conduct preliminary interviews and at some point in time arrive at a decision. CV's and resumes can easily be artificially enhanced. It is important to pay attention to skillsets as they present themselves in the activities of potential candidates in the online environment. It is important for HR departments to be aggressively proactive in searching out talent but in searching out such talent it needs to be remembered that these skillsets will complement the skillsets of others tasked with a given real world problem. The "branding of the individual" is just as important as the branding of an organization when it comes to hiring practices.
  3. Ad Hoc Collaborative Groups: The idea of "outsourcing" has enjoyed a great deal of notoriety in the past due to how it can depress the economy of a city, a state and even a country. However, searching and bringing together talent in online collaborative groups tasked in solving real world problems has the potential to enlist not just the talent in "our own back yards" but to use effective global talent seeking to bring together the necessary skillsets required for understanding and solving the problem. On an ad hoc basis such groups could disband after a solution is produced. Unlike outsourcing, protocols should be established to share the benefits with the organizations represented by the collaborators. It does not require the closing down of a business that would result in unemployment and a depressed economy and the ROI for the collaborating organizations could be quite intriguing.
  4. Establishment of Collaborative Global Learning Networks: This is a concept that I have mentioned before in previous posts. Essentially it involves setting up 6 collaborative global learning networks that act as forums for organizations to send employees with promising new and innovative ideas to. It is here, in what we might term an "innovation sandbox" that employees may collaborate, receive mentoring, and be able to develop their ideas and present them to a council made up of cross disciplinary specialists. The employees then return to their respective organizations with a report on the potential benefit of the ideas as well as the necessary caveats to be aware of. The concept of proprietary and intellectual ownership should be worked in such a way that it doesn't promote or lead to a "paralyzing protectionism" which defeats the purpose of collaborating in the first place.

There is still a fundamental question that has an impact on such ideas which is:

 "Will the vision and purpose of education change in order to produce learners who are creators of new knowledge and skillsets or will education continue to be resistant to the necessary changes that prepare the learners to be effective organizational leaders and employees in the real digital world?"

Next...Learning Cultures in Education--Breaking Down Barriers

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