The mission that I chose to accept is the creation of a new presentation for the upcoming Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit. The presentation will deal with the 80% of a successful collaboration project that is generally acknowledged and ignored – the people.
My goal was to find some new ground to cover and I decided to use crowdsourcing to garner some new ideas. My intention was modest – tap the ideas of my colleagues. But the brief foray into crowdsourcing revealed some interesting dimensions about how willing people are to collaborate – at least to this one-time request.
My approach was simple: I sent an email (which is, after all, the great collaboration tool, right?) to a select number of communities of practice (which in Gartner we call research communities). The CoPs copied were in the bcc field so as not to spawn a flood of spam. The request was simple. I asked for: one suggestion for what needs to be done in order to create a truly collaborative workplace.
The response was delightful. I received over 50 responses which I estimate to be about one third of the people contacted. Even though I asked for one suggestion, nearly half of the people provided multiple ideas and many wrote elaborate responses. Over 75% of the responses came in the same day I sent to email. Responses came from both strong and weak ties and very few were duplicate suggestions.
The input helped me create the storyboard for the talk and also gave me some novel, new research sources (innovative means it’s new to me, right?).
Because the response was so great, I’ve been trying to analyze the factors that help me get such a good response. These are the ones I’ve come up with:
- The request was direct – it was clear what I was asking for.
- The request was short – it did not require much time to answer.
- The topic is one people care deeply about – working collaborative with colleagues.
- Responding was easy – just reply to the email. No context switching required.
- The relationship is ongoing – these same people will likely need my help in the future.
Hopefully, this story will help readers of this blog as they think about how to initiate or adjust their collaboration programs.
I would also be interested in your thoughts about what makes collaboration work in your organization. Please leave a comment.