NANCY’S BLOG: Collaboration At Work.

No Comment 67 Views

Nearly four years ago we created a Glossary of the Future in which we defined 20 or so terms defining culture in the years ahead. This one in particular keeps gaining momentum:

Collaborative “_______”

Fill in the blank with any other word that makes you happy and you will be right on. Examples?       Collaborative Commerce, Collaborative Consumption, Collaborative Platforms, Collaborative Learning, Collaborative Enterprise….

It was an acknowledgement that we are increasingly drawn to work, learn and live in less independent and static ways. And it’s not just theory. The enterprise collaboration market in North America alone is expected to reach $34.74 billion by 2019 and collaborative commerce is estimated to be growing more than 25% a year.

What’s driving this big shift? In our opinion it’s a combination of:

+ increasingly distributed information and talent

+ more complex problems and a much faster need to respond

+ advancing connective/social technologies

= a whole new way to work, create and navigate fast moving change

 New Tools + Social Technologies

While collaborative consumption has been talked about a lot these past two years, (with the fast rise of darling tech-enabled platforms such as Airbnb and ridesharing service Lyft), the more hidden story is the power this same behavior has to impact enterprise coordination.

I think about this in the path of my own career: when I started, I was given tasks that fit into a system of others’ work; I had no tools or ways to produce anyting alone. Then desktops entered and we became much more self-sufficient–typing our own documents, making our own plane reservations and excel spreadsheets, and so much more; and we were trained to become as efficient as possible (who remembers TQM?). Now we are entering a phase where we MUST be able to effectively coordinate action with others and learn to better orient where we are on fast moving terrrain. This has given rise most recently to the emergence of ECS (Enterprise Collaboration Systems) and the social learning + doing tools that are streamlining collaborative processes and allowing for more agile management and knowledge flows.

As Fast Company reported way back in 2012, there is a ton of potential in connecting corporate voices and ideas internally:

“A new report from McKinsey Global Institute, makes the business case for social media a little easier to sell. According to an analysis of 4,200 companies…. social technologies stand to unlock from $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in value.  

… Savings comes from some unexpected places. Two-thirds of the value unlocked by social media rests in ‘improved communications and collaboration within and across enterprises,’ according to the report. Far from a distraction, in other words, social media proves a surprising boon to productivity. 

Companies are embracing social tools—including internal networks, wikis, and real-time chat—for functions that go way beyond marketing and community building. R&D teams brainstorm products, HR vets applicants, sales fosters leads, and operations and distribution forecasts and monitors supply chains. 

Behind this laundry list is a more hefty benefit. Social technologies have the potential to free up expertise trapped in departmental silos. High-skill workers can now be tapped company-wide. Managers can find out ‘which employees have the deepest knowledge in certain subjects, or who last contributed to a project and how to get in touch with them quickly,’ says New York Times tech reporter Quentin Hardy. Just cutting email out of the picture in favor of social sharing translates to a productivity windfall as ‘more enterprise information becomes accessible and searchable, rather than locked up as ‘dark matter’ in inboxes.’ “

 We completely agree and have been encouraging our clients to integrate collaborative learning tools as simple as Yammer. However, while each week there is a new platform or tool to consider, frankly, there is still a ton of room for improvement. We’ve been dreaming of our own collaborative work platform for years and even worked with our pals at Barkley in KC to wire frame the ultimate social learning/corporate culture shifting platform. Need to crank that idea up again! Because as Thomas Malone (Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management) puts it:

“We’re no longer thinking about today’s organizations and how they’re going to change. Instead, we’re talking about the goal of having intelligent organizations and thinking about how that can occur in new ways with new technologies.”

 New Spaces

Oh, but there is more!  This isn’t only about new digital technologies. As we shared this past week, co-working and co-creation spaces are an important part of this shift as well.

When you consider Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, about 65 million Americans will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and solopreneurs (making up about 40% of the workforce), one could fairly assume that co-working is here to stay. And maker spaces such as TechShop and Stitch Factory add tremendous value to our ability to learn and do in community with others. And it’s not just freelancers getting in on the act­–companies like Google, Amazon, Twitter & AT&T are all taking advantage and reaping the benefits of providing more diverse spaces to cater to an increasingly divergent yet collaborative work force.

We’re especially fascinated by plans we heard recently from an exec at Westfield Shopping Centers who intends to engage the more than 20 million annual visitors to their San Francisco location by launching an entirely new co-working space called Bespoke in 2015; it aims to place hackathons alongside runway shows and allow for visitor participation and interaction with co-worker creations. BAM!

New Government?

Excitedly, along with commerce and enterprise, Government systems are catching on, too, as these cultural and technological shifts are putting pressure on them to implement a new system of distributed governance that is focused on service, solutions, and collaboration.

It’s hard to imagine that with 535 voting members in two houses of Congress, more than 90,000 state and local governments hundreds of federal agents and over 20 million Americans involved in public service, the future of government is poised to change any time soon. But, one could argue that in order to stay relevant and truly serve constituents, government as we know it will have no choice.

So, if we think for a moment; what might government become in the next 10 years or more? What could a modern public service provider look like? Our local friend, William Eggers Director of Public Sector Research for Deloitte (and former TEDxAustin speaker) recently launched a dynamic overview of Government 2020, which explores the mega-shifts with the potential to drive transformative change. It is jammed packed with ideas on how government has the potential to “pivot from a provider and administrator of services to that of an enabler; its role would be to create environments in which society’s innovators can thrive” by effectively harnessing these shifts – and in particular, its ability to collaborate far more effectively with other sectors and citizens overall.

As the year winds down, we encourage you to consider all of those you connect, collaborate and co-create with. There is a lot of exciting work you’ll all be doing ahead!


Nancy (and Emma)

Stories we pinpointed this week: 

Collaboration at Work

From Command and Control to Coordinate and Cooperate

The Collaborative Ways We Now Work

Collaboration: A Transformative Lens, Not a Trend

Re-imagining Government as a Modern Service Provider

About the author

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required)


Recent Posts

If you're interested in a customized version of our weekly newsletter for your industry please reach out to We have versions brewing for the Food, Restaurant, Luxury Travel and Entertainment industries, and would love to synthesize all this learning for you!



Founder | Brand Futurist

Play Big Inc: Inspired guides to the new economy

email | twitter | linkedin 

TEDxAustin | TEDxYouth@ Austin 


Cultural Synthesist | Content Director



Design Instigator | Experience Architect