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Can’t We All Get Along on One Collaborative Environment

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  October 5, 2011  |  Submit a Comment

The short answer is, no.

In a recent client meeting where we were discussing a collaborative environment specifically for developing and rating ideas. One of the meeting attendees said something to the effect of, “Why are we creating another collaborative environment? We should just be using the one we have.”

We need to recognize that collaboration is not a “one size fits all.” It sounds great to have one environment where everyone goes to collaborate but it isn’t reality. Not all collaboration is created equally. There are different “purposes” for collaboration that require different styles. Look at social mediatechnologies for instance. We have social networking, collaborative authoring (e.g., wikis), answer marketplaces, prediction markets, social ratings, idea engines, crowdsourcing, etc. All have different collaborative “styles” that require a different participant experience, functionality, social incentives, gamification, seeding options, etc.

I could just as easily ask, “Why can’t we just have one ERP application?” Or “Do we really need a World Wide Web. Can’t we just have one Web site?” How about, “We don’t need Wikipedia. Let’s all just build an on-line encyclopedia on Facebook.” For some reason many people seem to apply this “one size fits all” mentality only to collaborative environments. It seems silly when you apply it to other computing genres.  

Facebook is a good example from the social Web. I see organizations with grand plans for what they want to do on Facebook. But they forget the basic purpose of Facebook is for people to easily collaborate with a group of “friends.” If you expect to substantially depart from that purpose then your chances of success are minimal. Why? Because that is what Facebook is built for and why people are there. And if Facebook itself tries to expand too much from that original purpose it runs the risk of alienating its current base and overwhelming new users.

I’m not saying that we need to have 100 different collaborative environments. I am saying that we need to expect more than one and that we need to effectively manage an ecosystem of collaboration capabilities depending on the needs of the organization. There will most likely be a mix of general and specific collaborative environments.

What do you see? Do you see this “one size fits all” collaboration mentality? If so, how do you deal with it? Or do you have a counter to my stance?

I co-authored a book "The Social Organization" on Check it out!


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Anthony J. Bradley
10 years at Gartner
26 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a group vice president in Gartner Research responsible for the research content that Gartner publishes through its three internet businesses (, and These responsibilities include creating and leading the research organization and infrastructure needed for the strategy formulation, planning, research, creation, editing, production and distribution of the content. He has four global teams of highly talented people who are advancing towards the world's greatest destination for content on how small businesses succeed through information technology.

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