Many organizations think they’re collaborating by making internal social networking available. However, many minimally-collaborative people have personal sites. Enabling social networking with real-time functionality creates new possibilities for organizational collaboration.
I gave a speech several months ago to U.S. government officials who are focused on getting agencies to collaborate. The agencies were using wikis and a sort of internal MySpace, and the culture was in the early stages of becoming collaborative. A central theme of my talk was how real-time collaboration is changing business models and how we work.
Presence, I explained to the government audience, would soon transform social networking by letting us know who’s online and available for spontaneous interaction. For more on presence, see my March 7, 2007 post. With a single click from somebody’s MySpace page or the internal equivalent, a colleague could launch an instant messaging session. The collaborators could then escalate the chat into a web conference or videoconference.
So…I was delighted to read a story in today’s New York Times headlined “Online Chat, As Inspired By Real Chat” in which Brad Stone nails the shortcomings of typical social networking. “It’s like an endless party where everybody shows up at a different time and slaps a yellow Post-it note on the refrigerator,” Stone writes. The story describes how several Silicon Valley companies are bringing “live socializing” to social networking. One company, Vivaty, lets users add 3-D virtual chat rooms to Web pages and social networking sites. Vivaty Scenes offers an immersive experience in which users choose avatars to represent them. Another company featured in the Times story is Meebo, which lets users add instant messaging to blogs, Web sites and social networking pages.
Real-time and asynchronous collaboration are no longer divorced modeds. This means that real-time collaboration will occur more easily, more often and more spontaneously. This impacts our collective culture in that we'll be interacting more in real time through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Within the enterprise, we can read somebody's personal page or a team site and from there connect with people on the fly to resolve issues or make a decision. Nevertheless, improved tools are merely enablers. It takes a collaborative culture to create value through collaboration.