Every year numerous business books and magazine articles are written about collaboration in the workplace. It’s hard not to be in favor of collaboration, but why do some organizations do it so well and other fail at it? Is it the company culture that makes a difference or perhaps the skills of those who endeavor to collaborate? Could it be the tools used to collaborate?
Take a moment and make a list of the tools that your organization currently uses to foster collaboration among coworkers. It’s a bit challenging for many businesses because collaboration is viewed as a pathway to a result rather than a result itself. Many people think of collaboration in terms of a process to be managed rather than a set of tools to be engaged. Thus, you might say that brainstorming sessions, conference calls and company strategy retreats are among your current methods of collaboration. You might even argue that the telephone and the office copy machine facilitate collaboration. Indeed, these may be effective methods for your company, and they may lead to desirable results, but what if the process of collaboration itself became a highly valued product?
Is it possible or even advisable to get your customers and prospective customers to engage in some form of collaboration that will benefit your company? The answer is yes, but the concept can be a bit counterintuitive. After all, imagine what kinds of things your customers could say about you if you were to enable that conversation through one or more social media tools that allow them to interact with and influence one another. Talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. Ask yourself this, however: Do you gain more by sponsoring or at least endorsing this kind of conversation than you do by running from it?
Excerpted from The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools & Strategies for Business Success, by Lon Safko and David K. Brake. John Wiley & Sons. 2009.
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