Is it possible to change behaviors or to build a collaborative organization without technology? Think about that for a moment before you answer.
Let’s say you are working at a large organization of a hundred thousand people. You want to become more collaborative, transparent, and empower your employee to share with each other. Is it possible to focus on these types of behaviors (and others that come with being collaborative) without the help of technology? It’s an interesting question in my opinion. For example let’s say that you tell your employees you want them to be more open and transparent with each other and you want them to share information across teams and geographies. Great, but how do you want that sharing of information to take place? Via phone or email? Or how about if you want to leverage the collective intelligence of employees to solve a problem or come up with an opportunity. How would you go about doing that and trying to engage your workforce without a collaborative technology piece in place? With an email newsletter? Clearly there is a bit of a dilemma here.
I’m a big advocate and believer in the necessity of behavior change to support collaboration. However, it’s also crucial to be able to support and empower these behaviors and this not only comes from culture but also from the enabling technologies that allow these types of things to happen; especially within larger organizations. I have yet to see or hear about any organization which says it’s collaborative yet doesn’t incorporate a collaboration solution into supporting that collaboration.
Think about this. Many employees and executives at companies are still not even familiar with a Jive, Yammer, Mango Spring (which we use), or Chatter. They have never seen these tools and therefore have no concept of what they are. Now imagine going to these employees and telling them that you want them to become more open, transparent, communicative, and collaborative. You will probably get a few awkward stares because ultimately the response will be something like “ok great, I’d love to, but how do you want me to do that with the other 100,000 employees that work here?” However, when employees start to use and become familiar with these solutions then things make a bit more sense. I’m not saying that they immediately get it and things just flourish, but it provides context for the conversation. It’s a bit like trying to explain the capabilities and benefits of Facebook and Twitter to someone who hasn’t seen it. You can talk about sharing, connecting, and communicating all you want but you need people to understand what you are talking about.
So, ultimately in order to build a collaborative organization you do need the technology piece to support the desired behaviors or you will fail. When Andrew McAfee coined the term “Enterprise 2.0″ he originally referenced it as the organization’s use of web 2.0 technologies internally, with customers, or partners to solve problems.
Sure, you also need to focus on the behaviors but they aren’t isolated. Technology and behavior change have a 1+1=3 effect and the most successful companies focus on both in parallel. Changing behaviors is crucial to the success of any collaboration initiative but so is being able to support those behaviors and empowering them to happen.