21st century collaborationNew, enabling technology means that collaboration has been redefined as the experience of people working together to develop collective solutions – irrespective of physical location or time zones.

But is the plethora of technology tools that is now available really vital to the collaboration process? And if so, are we using them effectively? What about the culture of our workplaces, are they changing to embrace the opportunities of collaboration?

It’s people who collaborate – so why involve technology?

With collaboration being the buzz word of the last few years, it’s tempting to think of it in terms of the products available. But people have been collaborating for centuries – so does all this technology we now have at our finger tips really help the process? Or is it purely window dressing?

Here’s a key point. Collaboration does not mean getting everyone to agree. In a group situation, disagreement is a positive thing, forcing individuals to examine their own position. Disagreement challenges and tests the strength of arguments. And maybe this is where technology can help most.

The key requirement for collaboration is communication. Technology can support this by providing platforms for team members to put forward their opinions and allow others to comment and discuss the relative merits. It can be used to disclose what people are working on and thinking about, so helping to minimise unexpected disagreement.

Technology is a great leveler too – it doesn’t care who you are or what your job title is. It merely publishes your stance, which must then stand before the team and live or die on its own merits. At its best, technology can not only capture global opportunities, while eliminating the barriers of time, location, culture and language, but also eliminate the unseen barriers of power, position and the reluctance to voice your opinion.

What do you think? Does your organisation see the importance of collaborative working and want to be involved? And can technology act as the great leveller that encourages contributions from everyone? Let us know in the comments, or join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn.