Criticism on Collaboration at work
In the recent years and months, there were a lot of criticism about collaboration at work. The most noted and the one that drew my attention was from a couple of articles from the Economist titled “The collaboration curse” and another one from Harvard Business Review titled “Collaborative overload”. The central theme in both of them was the same. Employees waste their time on non-value adding activities through collaborative exchanges through emails, meetings and on the company intranet. Value added collaboration come from only about 3-5% of the employees. Further, isolated and focused work gets hampered through collaboration activities.
Having spent my time working in the HR function in large organizations managing HR projects, the above arguments and contentions from the authors might be true. But we also need to understand that collaboration is a synergy and it is best represented by the statement from Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of parts”. We find meaning, new ideas and serendipitous discoveries in those gibberish non-value activities. Nothing wasteful is spent for a discerning and astute listener. Collaboration within large organizations is akin to how marriages happen. Just like how we plant seeds of love, trust, understanding, and cooperation in marriage, the same is with the social exchanges in collaboration.
One such medium which can make collaboration a symphony of sorts is the effective use of social media within large organizations. Just like the statement from Aristotle, no one person need have all the knowledge and expertise to solve the problems. More specifically, my research focus would be on how social media usage can foster strong bonds of social capital among employees for collaboration and those innovative ideas for problem-solving can spontaneously emerge from the bottom up.