Building Vibrant Human Networks

By Chris Ihrig

Companies laying the groundwork for high-performance collaboration find that deploying the follow principles fire-up your results:

  1. Deploy pervasive collaboration technology. Keep it simple and open: “small pieces loosely joined,” in Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger’s felicitous phrase. Tools should work together through common standards and be as compatible as possible with those of the rest of the world. Think options, not integration, adaptability not static efficiency.
  2. Keep work visible. Unless there is a really good reason not to, let everybody see everybody’s real work. Let people learn to filter and sort for themselves. Don’t abstract, summarize, or channel. Fodder is good. Put it within everyone’s reach.
  3. Build communities of trust. When people trust one another, they are more likely to collaborate freely and productively. When people trust their organizations, they are more likely to give of themselves now in anticipation of future reward. And when organizations trust each other, they are more likely to share intellectual property without choking on legalisms.
  4. Think modularly. Reengineering was about thinking linearly: managing the end-to-end process instead of discrete functions. That approach fosters focused efficiency but inhibits variety and adaptability. Modularity is the reverse: sacrificing static efficiency for the recombinant value of options. Think modular teams as well as processes. The finer, the better.
  5. Encourage teaming. Celebrate the sacrifices that teams make for the broader enterprise, including customers and suppliers. Dismantle individualized performance metrics and rewards that pit people against one another. Cheap transactions among the many fuel more innovation than expensive incentives aimed at the few. Reward the group, and the group will reward you.

Excerpts from “Collaboration Rules,” by Philip Evans and Bob Wolf, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2005.