In many discussions about Web 2.0 technologies’ role in the enterprise, it’s interesting to me to notice the skeptical voice and contrarian opinion. These are valuable points of view, and essential for one to properly vet the application of the technology in terms of value delivered to the Business.
Many times, the contrarian voice represents the skepticism of the “wisdom of crowds.” In my interpretation of this, these individuals are not being negative to the value of collaboration, but rather are doubtful of the value of broad collaboration on a development task for which they’re accountable.
Readers of this article who are intimately familiar and comfortable with Web 2.0 technologies may be tempted to surmise that these contrarians don’t understand how these technologies actually work. While perhaps true in some cases, it’s often true that there is good understanding of the technologies, but still doubts about how casting a wider net of collaboration will benefit the cause. In fact, I’ll surmise that some would even think there’s risk of harming the cause, at least through introduction of inefficiencies.
How does the “Crowd” know anything about this issue that my team or I don’t already know? The answer to that question is yet another question, “Who Knows?” Innovation thrives on the ideas at the fringe.
If we step way back for a moment, collaboration is absolutely unavoidable even for the most siloed organization. Even we, ourselves, are individually results of immense collaboration. Our ethics, ideals, and egos are formed at the convergence of our family, social, political, religious, and temporal climate. We’ve chosen the framework of our personal character based upon our reaction and assessment of this confluence of ideas. We chose our career based upon our personal preferences influenced by individuals that have impressed us, opportunity alignment, and a vision of one’s future self. Even when we work in an organization with strong organizational boundaries, we choose a solution to a problem based upon the general guidelines of that organization, as well as understanding of available resources and known incentives. These are all examples of some level of collaboration. Though arguably not terribly broad, this is still evidence of a contribution of converging forces. An important term I’d like to focus on in this discussion is the word, “Choice.”
One way to look at this is that the degree of collaboration is defined by the diversity and quantity of converging forces…and that the success of collaboration, both in terms of its results as well as its efficiency, is modulated by the application of Choice on the collaborative flow of information.
It’s possible that those who are wary of broad-based collaboration are concerned about loss of control, process creep, inefficiencies caused by distraction, and dilution of directional objectives. I posit that this is a matter of how the collaborative development process is managed, rather than a risk of broad-based collaboration. One has the ability, through Choice, to direct the flow of development in a positive way. That component of Choice represents the management framework created around the development process, amplified in this case, by broad based collaboration.
Meeting the goals and objectives of the task at hand are ultimately the litmus test for the success of the project regardless of the degree of collaboration tapped for the effort. Web 2.0 technologies offer a path to access an amplified scope and richness of ideas that can be chosen or not, as influencers of the outcome of the project. Through this comes a broader opportunity for innovation, which is seldom a bad thing.