Freedom or control?

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In every collaboration transformation project you reach a certain stage when the discussion / debate turns to the amount of control and governance you should introduce. If the platform has very little engagement or traction then this argument doesn’t surface much so if you are faced with it you must be doing something right!

My firm belief is that if we want to make collaboration work inside the organisation and exploit the ‘implicit’ knowledge that eludes companies we need to provide ‘stewardship’ rather than ‘control’.

The more control and process you put into these systems the less people want to contribute. You can create a wonderful centrally structured system with only certain groups allowed a presence or a written business case before something is created but I will guarantee you are creating conversation graveyards because it’s just too much hard work to share and collaborate.

This doesn’t mean we have a ‘free-for-all’. Each Country / Function will have the ability to develop their ‘structured’ area when they see a need. Here you can create moderated conversations and more formality but this shouldn’t be at the cost of people or communities that are ‘not near the centre’ and want to share and collaborate – or in essence just make it easier to connect.

This ‘stewardship’ (use cases, guiding early adopters etc onto the platform) allows people to see how they can begin to use collaboration platforms in a business context (and much of the coaching material should focus on behaviours to encourage collaboration), provide guidance and best practice on developing groups / communities and give then the freedom to build relationships, networks and communities. The ones that begin to provide value will soon come to the attention of the more ‘structured’ areas. The ones that provide no value will lose appeal and fade away.

The Darwin effect will take place. Groups will develop and you will get some duplication but that ‘duplication’ will soon be whittled out of the ‘network’ as people will gravitate to the networks and communities that give them most value. It is highly unlikely that 2 identical communities will exist for a period of time without coming to the attention of each other. They can then generally determine the future existence of their groups / content / networks and certainly doesn’t need a central structure to play ‘judge and jury’ on this.

Rather than look through a list of every group that has been people will begin to change their behaviour and use search more to find suitable content or groups to join. This has been my experience in previous organisations (all have been highly regulated and dealing with delicate subject matters) Give people a degree of ‘stewardship’ so they feel ‘safe’ and confident to share and collaborate. Create a rigid control and you continue the development of conversational graveyards.

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