Bas Reus' quest on self-organization and online collaborative spaces

Purpose of collaboration: collaboration

Posted in online collaborative spaces, self-organization by Bas Reus on September 7, 2009

Root SpiralWhy do people collaborate? To achieve goals (or to generate whatever type of output) and then quit? No, people collaborate in order to keep collaborating. Time is being invested to be able to invest more time together. Of course, the quality of the time spent on collaborating and the quality of temporary output will influence the probability that collaboration will continue in this formation in a positive way. If people like each other and like the process of collaboration together, people are likely to continue to organize themselves together. That makes collaboration an important purpose of collaboration. This corresponds to one of the important findings of Mark Elliott, which says:

Collaboration is inherently composed of two primary components, without either of which collaboration cannot take place: social negotiation and creative output. [..] Another caveat to the second primary component, creative output, is that the output may take the form of an ongoing process instead of a final conclusion. An example would be an intimate relationship—the parties involved may collaborate very closely towards the successful continuance of the collaborative process.

If we translate this to collaborative software, it should therefore not just be goal-orientated, but collaboration orientated as well. Multiple types of output during the process of collaboration can be good, there is not just one single output that’s acceptable. That said, there must be an initial purpose to start the collaborative process in the first place. Why do we start collaborating? I think it’s the best suited strategy if many people are involved and needed to create output, to generate possible solutions to problems, when people can choose to enter or leave the collaborative process, when access to the process is open to all collaborators (in a stigmergic way), and when new problems can come to surface during the collaborative process. The latter enables the continuation of the process.

In practice, the most important thing is to get the conversation started. Once it is started, it is easier to have it continued. So how do we get the process started, and have it continued and even sustainable at online collaborative spaces as well? So who do we start with? Just lead-users or as many people as possible right away? What are the traces that are set in the beginning? What are barriers to enter or how do we remove those barriers? What are the triggers for people to embrace the common subjects? What kind of output are we after? When can people step out of the process and can others step in? When is it self-sustainable?

All above questions are valid, probably hundreds more are. But it all starts with the same problem, how is the conversation getting started? Is it a big-bang or is it evolutionary? After that, in short, my pledge on collaboration: The journey is the destination….


4 Responses

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  1. fredzimny said, on September 9, 2009 at 15:08

    I recently read Morton Hansen’s Collaboration. seems that he addresses some of your opportunites.

  2. Bas Reus said, on September 10, 2009 at 10:38

    Thanks Fred, for mentioning this book. I didn’t read it, but found the key point of growing to be a collaborative leader (p. 165). All true statements, but what’s so different from general leadership? I mean, where makes collaboration so much difference on this points?

    Again, I didn’t read the book, but I’m curious to your vision on the differences between collaborative leaders, and other leadership styles. And where does it differ with participative management?

  3. Thank You! said, on November 5, 2009 at 09:19

    In practice, the most important thing is to get the conversation started. Once it is started, it is easier to have it continued.

  4. Ken Boggs said, on January 13, 2010 at 17:32

    I have studied in business both how to enhance it in groups and how to measure it objectively. My book “Getting the Most Out of Teams” details how these skills and processes. I love interaction so pls do so it fhe spirit moves you.

    I am currently studying why people choose to be in collaborative teams and what evolutionary advantage such behavior provides. My gurus are Dawkins and Pinter.



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