Collaboration has become one of the hottest business tools of the 21st century. This is no accident. As organizations pool their resources in order to develop more productive and cost-effective ways of doing business, the recurring refrain from executives and employees alike is that when everyone works together, the result is greater than the sum of any organization’s individual parts. Consider Shared Services Canada, which is helping the government get rid of duplicate IT systems and replacing everything with consolidated systems. As an example, Shared Services Canada is attempting to implement a single email system across government departments. Each time the agency works to develop systems that encourage greater collaboration and sharing across organizations, the net increases in innovation and productivity are remarkable.
Fostering a climate of collaboration can be difficult, especially for organizations that have operated with a traditional top-down decision making model for decades. The trick is finding a model that allows executives to remain in control of implementation decisions while creating an environment that allows employees to openly share ideas without fear of being penalized, either socially or fiscally. Technology, especially in the form of enterprise content management systems, has created a forum that is both approachable and amenable to changes. Virtually anyone, regardless of their background, can quickly begin using these business social media tools to contribute their ideas and help solve larger problems.
What is surprising about all of this is the creation of a larger asset, namely a collective intelligence that is customized to the needs of a particular organization. When executives and analysts talk about a process producing a result that is “greater than the sum of its parts,” they are invariably referring to this collective intelligence, which takes it strength from all the members of an organization, yet somehow delivers more than the organization previously did. There is no easy way to explain how this works; it is becoming an accepted fact that it simply does.
The best way to create this collective intelligence is for executives to implement a customized content management system that enables collaboration across all sectors of the organization. It may take a few weeks or months for employees to fully engage with the system, but once they do, the power of the collective intelligence will make any initial investment on the part of the administration well worth the effort.