The hidden cost of collaboration #socialbpm #bpm

Everyone talks about collaboration and its benefits, but what does it really take to join forces with others, gather ideas and come up with the best way to move forward? Collaboration is usually talked about as a very positive thing, but is it always a benefit to  get more people involved? How do we decide what’s appropriate? How does it really work? If you aren’t asking these questions, maybe you should.

Everyone’s an expert

The danger of collaboration taken beyond logical boundaries is the “everyone is an expert” syndrome, where all voices are considered as equal. While great ideas can and do come from unexpected places, it may not be practical to solicit or welcome input from just anybody. Keep in mind that when you encourage participation, ignoring input can create a politically unpleasant environment.

No one is in charge

Collaboration taken to another extreme can be abdication of responsibility. Lack of great ideas or a deadlock can be the outcome of collaboration without leadership. Have you been on a project where the leader wants everyone to participate but what really needs to happen is for a decision to be made? Not all things should be decided by committee.

Collaboration costs

People talk up the benefits of collaboration but there isn’t nearly as much conversation about the time and effort expended by each individual contributing. How much collaborative effort is beneficial versus distraction? There must be a point where the benefits decline and the effort could and should have been used in better ways.

Lastly, collaboration doesn’t necessarily translate to faster or better results. It can, however, slow down decisions and clutter the idea landscape.

Lowering the Cost

To avoid the challenges above, collaboration needs to be considered as a strategic tool to be used in a systematic way. It has to occur naturally but enabled and led in a way that keeps it from being chaos and entropy. Social technology offers a way to lower the cost, but not without a few caveats. Simply creating a Twitter-like environment within your enterprise isn’t going to resolve the “everyone is an expert” or “no one is in charge” challenges. Used effectively, social technology can:

  • Make seeking opinions less disruptive and more opportunistic
  • Pair the problem with the ideas much faster
  • Allow the population to self-select into the best conversations for their passions and knowledge
  • Let the community easily move a great idea to the top of the list

In the end, it isn’t about the new, shiny object. It has to be about the benefit being greater than the cost.


Categories: Social / Collaboration

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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6 Comments on “The hidden cost of collaboration #socialbpm #bpm”

  1. September 15, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    Nice ideas Chris – as a boomer it seems to me there’re two challenges in “Social for Business.”

    1. Sorting the wheat from the chaff. The deluge of comment from inspired to inane is a firehose. Many deserving ideas will be lost forever in the background noise. You need a channel

    2. There’s a line between social and anarchy. Companies are not democracies – some of the things we have to do we may not like, but there is no choice – the markets, shareholder, and legal jurisdictions compel us to do things in certain ways. Beyond that, some people just rail against process because it’s not the way they would do it. And that’s good if the idea is good, but a distraction and a waste of time if it churns away in the social buzz, burns peoples’ time and creates more chaff.

    “Organised chaos” is a familiar phrase – we all get it without explanation. Social BPM has the power do that if the social “chaos” exists in the context of a solid process framework to organise it. Otherwise it’s just plain chaos.

  2. Sam Lorio
    September 15, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Totally unrelated to the business world, I experienced the hidden cost of collaboration this week. Thinking I was doing a good thing, I tried to create a new carpool arrangement with 5-6 neighborhood families already carpooling to my daughter’s softball team. The number of emails that ensued showed that I created confusion and frustration by trying to create something new for everybody than just trying to insert myself into what already existed…and was working well, apparently. Knowing the other families’ process before creating something new would have allowed me to get what I needed without disrupting what was working for everyone else.

  3. Patrick Albert
    September 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    That’s the old debate between essence and vacuity.
    Qestion is: is there anything but relations – the essence of collaborarion.

    One the one hand the “winning” Greek philosophers, the followers of Plato are all about essence, or leadership – the Prometheus attitude. While on the other hand, you’ll see Laozi or Zouangzi putting forward the Intelligence of the ultimate reality and – just like elegants surfers on the wave – this wondeful ability on taking benefit of what you don’t control.

    IMHO – as a French descendant of this great Greek héritage, it’s time to change our minds. Maybe Heraclite, or Diogenes, or Pyrrhon might be best door openers for this century.

    • September 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      Due to the complexity of your response, I’ve decided to return to university and learn more.


  1. Data, process, models, events and Enterprise 3.0 | BPM For Real - September 15, 2011

    […] BPM For Real A site about the realities of business process management Skip to content HomeAbout BPM for RealLatest posts ← The hidden cost of collaboration #socialbpm #bpm […]

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