Collaborative companies need both collaborative chaos and organization. Collaborative chaos is the unstructured exchange of ideas to create value. And some of the best, most valuable ideas are born because people are relaxed enough and connected enough to effectively brainstorm. And collaborative chaos encourages idea development.
Some people confuse collaboration with inefficient second-guessing and emphasizing debate and hot air over action. Effective collaboration requires organization and structure. It’s a sort of yin and yang, organization and structure balancing collaborative chaos. Effective collaborative cultures have the flexibility to develop great ideas and engage people regardless of level, region, function or business unit. But they also provide the organization and structure to collaboratively formulate and execute strategy.
Collaborative tools enhance both collaborative chaos and organization, some tools lending themselves to one or the other. Real-time tools including IM, videoconferencing and telepresence are key to collaborative chaos, because they enable geographically-dispersed people to brainstorm. In contrast, asynchronous tools like team sites and wikis help organize collaboration and provide a counterpoint to real-time exchanges.
Mind mapping is an emerging tool that will help us organize collaboration. You can read Wikipedia’s take on mind mapping here. Essentially, a mind map visually represents connections among related information. A Detroit-area startup called Spinscape is developing a user-friendly mind mapping tool that will fit individual work styles and collaborative organizational cultures. The software is currently in a closed beta, but Spinscape invited me for drinks and a demo at a San Francisco hotel suite last week. Product Manager Mark Salamango and Chief Evangelist Jonathan Sapir really get collaboration. They are clearly thinking about how work styles are evolving and translating that thought process into the Spinscape tool. You can learn more about Spinscape from Mark’s Spinscape blog.
Spinscape’s approach to mind mapping could enhance everything from product rollouts to acquisitions. Mind maps resemble org charts and family trees. In a product rollout, one box in the map may link to product images, another to video of previous product rollouts, another to Wikipedia’s entry on the product category, another to internal blogs and wikis on the topic, another to archived meeting video, another to external blogs and news stories.
Mind mapping is a way to keep collaboration on track.