Trends in Collaboration

 How Are Organizations Changing Their Approach To Collabrative Learning?

By David Coleman

Last month, I had the chance to look at trends in the collaboration space and market disruptors (by interviewing a number of companies in this area). Although I am still in the process of writing a report, I am already noticing some trends that are currently driving collaboration.

1) Availability of information. Information is plentiful to overwhelming today, rather than it being scarce like a decade ago. This abundance is driving the pace of change, and also the pace of decision-making. Since most people want to make informed decisions, this means they need access to accurate and timely information. It also means they need access to people (with specific knowledge or expertise).

2) Integration of collaboration into everyday work. In the past, collaboration was considered a feature and benefit on its own (i.e. a video-conferencing system, or an online workspace), and generated a marketplace of siloed applications and islands of information. Today’s business landscape no longer looks like this: we are awash in information, and collaborative tools (if they are good) are helping to break down these silos. But it is the incorporation of collaboration into everyday processes where we see the biggest change. No longer is it about a room-based video-conferencing technology, but it is about the budgeting process, and the video-conferencing meeting is just part of this process, and a way to make the process more effective.

3) Rapidly changing organizations. Many of the executives I spoke to had noted that there are more geographically distributed teams than ever before. That there is a greater use of the freelance economy (both inside and outside the organization), and the realization by top management that a business is much more like a network or a community than a monolithic, hierarchical structure. Many of these companies are focusing more on project teams than specific roles.

4) More realistic view of “enterprise social.” Last year, the number of managers that were beginning to understand “enterprise social” was up to 60 percent (from 10 percent five years ago), and I think the trend is accelerating. We are also seeing more engagement by management. In the collaboration game, “do as I say, not as I do” does not fly any more in a more transparent organization. Leaders have to be part of the change, and most likely leading the charge!

For more information on these and other trends and disrupters, download the report at

—The author is founder, managing director and senior analyst of Collaborative Shift, San Mateo, Calif.

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