Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let's not confuse strategic collaboration with tactical collaboration

CLARIFICATION: Collaboration has multiple dimensions
I have Google Alerts set for a slew of terms. And like most people who lead lives of quiet desperation out of their inbox, these e-mails often just become clutter and immediately end up in the deleted items folder. I barely have time to scan the headlines in one e-mail alert.

But this one caught my eye the other day. It was an Inc. magazine article titled "The Best Collaboration Tools" by Max Chafkin.

I was expecting to read about a roundup of tools that measurably improved the productivity of teams, and that help teams quickly come to a consensus on decisions. From where I sit on the "entrepreneurial throne" (j/k, it's really just your average desk chair from Staples), that is what collaboration is all about.

But when I opened the article, I was surprised to find that Max listed Dropbox, Basecamp, Yammer, Gmail, and Google Docs.

Now I like and use some of these things just as much as the next guy. But I thought "best collaboration tools" is a pretty strong term for describing them. They're more like the "best free small business document and content sharing tools online."

I noted this in a comment on the article. Certainly having several people work on a document is technically collaboration, but that is the tactical definition of collaboration. To me collaboration is a strategic imperative, especially for fast-moving entrepreneurial companies that need to make decisions quickly.

They are at a disadvantage, from a resource perspective, compared to their much larger competitors. They need to find ways to lever technology to their advantage in contrast to the slower-moving competitors saddled with big corporate IT departments and policies that require certain approvals and other obstacles.

It would be interesting to see Inc. follow up on this, and go beyond just interesting and cool document and content sharing technology -- which is pretty much what Max covered here -- into things that actually help teams work more efficiently and effectively together.

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