Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who Leads Workplace Collaboration?

Last week a cancellation in my calendar afforded me the opportunity to attend the Chief Learning Officer webinar titled, Enterprise Collaboration: Can You Connect Social Learning and Business Performance? As with most lunchtime webinars, I approached this one with tempered expectations. I go into these things with the hope that I might pick up at least a gem of an idea, or something that sparks my thinking. This session delivered both. Presenters Eric Bruner and Butler Newman of RWD alternated taking the lead on describing the culture shift taking place (or that should be taking place!) in learning and organizations related to the use of social media for business performance.

After walking us through a slide reminding us of Josh Bersin's Evolution of Corporate Learning, from the 1990's through today, they uncovered the gem of the day as they began describing what a collaborative performance workplace looks like. The description contained three key components:

Process Centered Collaboration (PCC) - characterized as taking place directly in the workflow, where workers can get persistent, formal and informal help, in context, to create transparent knowledge - but, in which participation is optional.

Communities of Practice (CoP) - described as being business-driven groups, formed across organizational boundaries that have a common focus, performing measureable, process-related work.

Communities of Interest (CoI) - described as interest-based groups, formed around an area of common focus for the benefit of the individuals or the community - again, in which participation is optional.

So if you wanted to draw this up as a formula, you could say:

Collaborative Culture = PCC + CoP + CoI

As the session continued Eric and Butler went on to talk about key roles in the collaborative work environment. The two obvious ones are community manager and technology steward. Then they followed up the gem, with the spark: They began talking about the leadership needed to sustain performance in the collaborative work environment. They stated that the CLO is in the best position to think about social media integration and therefore has to be the vanguard leader for collaboration in the business. I thought that was interesting. I had always thought someone in Marketing or IT would be best suited to take the lead in the social media arena, but after they said it, it immediately made sense. Who could be better than a learning person to grasp the necessary organizational context, process performance, and people readiness needed to launch and sustain a collaborative work environment?

As the webinar wound down, the presenters shared how the CLO would fulfill that role. It would be done by:
  • providing strong communication
  • becoming the community builder
  • embracing user-generated content (still a tough one in many organizations)
  • managing top-down; engaging all stakeholders along the way
  • making sure that process-centered collaboration is in the work flow; not appended on to it.
For those of us who work in corporate learning organizations, it certainly does throw a challenge our way.


  1. Mike, Thanks for the coverage! Great summary, I hope this met your goals for the hour! I know the music was a tough act to follow. We had fun discussing these concepts with the conference attendees and learned many different perspectives!

  2. Eric,

    My pleasure. I enjoyed the webinar. It really got me thinking about workplace collaboration and the role I need to play in bringing about more of it.

    Thanks very much!