Collaboration Concepts and Frameworks by Steve Carey 8/14/2012
After reviewing the literature on Collaboration I found a number of concepts and frameworks, the most useful of which are highlighted below.
Wikipedia definition of collaboration: working together to achieve a common goal.
Differentiating intra- and inter- organizational collaboration
Intraorganizational collaboration is internal collaboration within a company or organization. Interoganizational collaboration is external collaboration outside the company or organization. This group is focused on interorganizational/external collaboration.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous communication
Synchronous or Real Time communication includes face-to-face meetings/discussions, phone meetings, Instant Messaging. This type of communication is best for brainstorming ideas and for solving a problem when the participants have the necessary background knowledge going into the meeting or discussion.
Asynchronous or Time Delayed communication involves one-way communication without an immediate response. This includes e-mails, voice mails, central repositories such as SharePoint or Google Docs, and Wikis. This is best when collaboration participants need to do work or research before moving to the next step. Or if there are constraints preventing participants from communicating real time.
This forum includes both types. Posting the collaboration list is an asynchronous form of communication. Holding face to face mixers provides a forum for real time communication.
A Collaboration Framework
Based on research by Gary Pisano and Robert Verganti, published in the Dec 2008 edition of the Harvard Business review.
If you want to initiate a collaborative effort you need to first answer two questions.
1. Openness: How open do you want to be to participants? It can be totally open crowdsourcing where anyone can participate. You make a problem public and then seek support from an unlimited number of problem solvers. Or you can select specific individuals in a closed network. Points to consider are:
• In an open network you can potentially attract a large number of problem solvers, and thus a vast number of ideas.
• With open participation, you don’t need to know your contributors. They may come up with innovative solutions that your normal circle would not have conceived of.
• In open modes it must be easy to participate. This works best for small problems or problems you are able to partition into small, well-defined chunks that players can work on autonomously at fairly low cost.
• In open modes you must be able to evaluate a larger number of proposed solutions.
• The best players often prefer to participate in closed collaboration where their input is more focused.
• Closed collaboration is best when you have proprietary information that you don’t want to share outside a select group.
2. Hierarchy: Who decides which problems to solve, how to solve them, and what solution to select? If it is completely vested in one “kingpin” company or individual then it is hierarchical. If the players are equal partners in the process and share decision-making power then it is flat.
• Flat mode has the advantage of sharing costs and risks and is best when no single player in the network has the breadth of knowledge to make the top-down decisions.
• Flat modes are appropriate when collaborators all have a vested interest in how a particular problem is solved and will participate only if they get some say in the decisions.
• Hierarchical collaboration is best when your organization has the capabilities and knowledge needed to define the problem and evaluate the proposed solutions.
Based on these dimensions, there are four collaboration modes:
• Open and Hierarchical / Innovation Mall. A place where a company can post a problem and anyone can propose solutions. Then the company chooses the solutions it likes best. Example: Stack Overflow where you post your software problem and the community provides answers.
• Open and Flat / Innovation Community. A network where anybody can propose problems, offer solutions, and decide which solutions to use. Example: Open Source software communities such as Linux.
• Closed and Hierarchical / Elite Circle. The company selects the participants, defines the problem and picks the solutions.
• Closed and Flat / Consortium. A private group of participants jointly select problems, decide how to conduct work, and choose solutions. Example: Joint marketing or R&D strategic alliances or joint ventures.
Of these four modes, this group can be used to facilitate the following types of collaboration:
• For those wanting to collaborate with one or a few people on a new startup or project idea starting from scratch, the consortium mode (Closed and Flat) makes sense.
• For individuals or companies already in business that want to collaborate with peers on marketing or R&D, in essence forming a strategic alliance or joint venture, the consortium mode (Closed and Flat) also makes sense.
• For companies that want input on problems or activities that doesn’t require a lot of effort from the other participants, the Innovation Mall (Open and Hierarchical) mode makes sense.
• For companies that want more focused and in-depth input requiring specific expertise, the Elite Circle (Closed and Hierarchical) mode makes sense.
• The Innovation Community (Open and Flat) may also work for this forum but we are not currently set up for that. Any ideas on this would be welcome.
Types of Collaboration Partners
From an 8/11/10 article by Hutch Carpenter on CMSwire.com
There are three types of collaboration Partners:
1. Peas in a Pod. These are people with similar skills and experiences, who are often prior acquaintances in the same geographic vicinity.
• This works best if the problem and solution process are already well defined and the challenge is simply to get it done.
• Also members are more likely to speak up and challenge ideas if there is a group familiarity. This is good for innovating.
• When the majority of members possess the same knowledge, that knowledge becomes the basis of discussion. This is called the Common Knowledge Effect, and it risks clouding out minority-held information from the decision-making process. Valuable information can be missed or never even considered.
2. New Partners in Crime. These are people outside their circles of familiarity, generally new to one another. They bring different knowledge and perspectives, and pool them together toward a common goal.
• Teams can form virtually, on-the-fly
• Idea/problem-to-be-solved is basis of team formation, not existing relationships
• Participation is Intrinsically motivated
• Anyone can contribute and the information and perspective each person brings are less likely to be redundant. This is what makes new-partners-in-crime collaboration so valuable. It taps the non-redundant tacit knowledge in people’s heads, and it energizes individuals by tapping areas of passion and hot button issues.
3. Challengers. These people provide counterarguments to your idea(s). Not just playing devil’s advocate, they will genuinely question your ideas and call out flaws that they perceive. They may even question the entire premise of your idea.
• These type of collaboration partners are best when ideas need to be flushed out.
• They can even help identify the best ideas through a form of rivalry.
This forum can be used to find collaboration partners that fit all three of the above types but may be particularly strong on the Partners in Crime model.