Recently, I’ve grown concerned about the lack of reflection that can compromise collaboration. I define reflection as “pausing to think.” Reflection is increasingly lost in our interrupt and interact-driven culture. It may seem counter-intuitive in that reflection suggests working alone or in a vacuum. But there’s a difference.
Some people think they do their best work by going off in a corner and making their mistakes in private. They prefer to interact with others only after they feel they got their part right on their own. Once their part is complete, they prefer to toss their work over the fence to the next person to do their part. This assembly-line approach to decision making, problem solving and product and service development compromises value. This behavior clearly undermines collaboration.
The other extreme is that in this Twitter-twitching, Facebook feeding, blog-obsessed culture, we feel compelled to constantly interact. Some health experts insist the fallout from these potentially obsessive behaviors includes everything from repetitive strain injuries to heart attacks, not to mention neglect of loved ones or divorce. Like endless face-to-face meetings, much of this online interaction is falsely labeled collaboration.
In The Culture of Collaboration book, I define collaboration as “working together to create value while sharing virtual or physical space.” Also, value is one of the Ten Cultural Elements of Collaboration that I identify in the book. Creating value is critical to collaboration. In fact, it’s a useful acid test.
Social networking includes a portfolio of tools and behaviors that can lead to collaboration, but it takes more than a tweet, post, text or instant message to collaborate. Social networking and social media output can be much like cable television chatter. The difference is that social networking lets us participate, and we tend to dip in and out all day long. It’s easy to devote big chunks of time to chatter. And there’s nothing wrong with chatter, but it’s not necessarily collaboration.
Constant interaction without reflection can compromise collaboration and value creation. Brainstorming, sharing ideas, and co-creation produces incredible value. When we pause to think, however, we can contribute more effectively when we’re collaborating. Reflection enhances value creation for collaborators.
Using collaborative tools for chatter and fun helps instill behavior that sparks collaboration, but it’s easy to just keep chattering and never get around to creating value. Use value creation as an acid test for collaboration, and we derive greater satisfaction and real results from social networking and other collaborative tools. And reflection is part of that equation.