Online collaboration has seen these past two years an exponential rise due to the pandemic. In fact, organizations nowadays have adopted a remote work policy to adhere to the sanitary restrictions that were put out to fight against Covid-19. In this article, we will aim to define the concept of collaboration as well as take a look at some of the problems individuals and organizations might face.
What is collaboration?
In order to speak of collaborative or cooperative work seems to be a euphemism insofar as the notion of collaboration or cooperation etymologically means “to work together”. However, while these two notions only consider action, the concept of collaborative or cooperative work designates both the mode of contribution of each member of a group and the final product resulting from this participation thus simultaneously identifying the action and the achievement. It can then be defined as the fact of working together to collectively carry out a project. The action is individual but integrated in order to achieve a collective work; the individual participates in the result but without his participation being able to be identified, or even measured. It is therefore a method of sharing, sharing knowledge, contributions and results.
Individual obstacles to collaborative work
One of the obstacles to collaborative work is the fact of not feeling legitimate in its contributions and / or dreading the critical eye of other coworkers. For example, a potential contributor to the development of an operating system or free software, such as Linux or Open Office, may fear generating a malfunction that will harm the entire community and that will designate him as less competent than the others within it. However, the opposite can also occur. If the overall level of contributions is low, the person may fear being equated with people who appear less expert. He will then prefer to turn away from this project which he will consider devaluing to associate with in relation to the image he has of himself.
Collaborative work, by making it possible to work remotely, modifies the previous practices that an employee may seek to maintain if they perceive them as advantages: travel if it is conceived as a pleasure or as an element contributing to a status social, mastery of time through agendas, informal exchanges, loyalty systems that provide personal benefits, etc. Thus, the lack of personal interaction is one of the main drawbacks of online collaboration: the lack of human contact. Rather than meeting your collaborators around a table, you stay alone, in front of your computer screen. No coffee break before, during or after, no sidelong glances or smiles from a colleague’s slip, and it’s hard to analyze participants’ body language to know what they really think about this new idea. In addition, the use of collaborative tools can be felt as a drawback in certain cases, by making the actions too transparent or structured, in fact, many employees have complained that due to technology they felt too connected to their workplace.
The individual spirit of competition can also be a major obstacle and is, indeed, traditionally opposed to the spirit of collaboration. In addition, the dissemination of information and knowledge by a person presupposes that he sees it as interesting or useful for the listener; however, he did not necessarily qualify them as such. The definition of the nature, level of authenticity, originality and durability of the information likely to be shared must be linked to the objective of the envisaged collaboration and whether or not a person can benefit from it.
To take an example, even if a writer feeds off his exchanges with a multitude of diverse people, he ultimately remains the sole creator of his work. On the other hand, the “power” of a group can also reduce the intuition of an individual from which a project originated. Unless they have a strong conviction and / or a great capacity for persuasion, if a single person has an intuition in a group, they may find themselves outvoted by the group that does not share the same grids.
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Collective obstacles on collaborative work
As with all digital tools, a video conference is not immune to technical problems. Between network outages, a poor Internet connection, a pixelated picture, appalling sound quality, or technical issues caused by the software, it can be difficult to organize a meeting in good conditions.
If you are working with international collaborators, the quality of the connection will depend on the speed of the country with which you are communicating. And if you don’t have an IT or technical department to help you out, it can quickly become problematic.
For small businesses, setting up a video conference room can be a significant cost. You will need to equip yourself with a sufficiently large TV screen, a high-performance audio system (microphone and speakers) and suitable software. If you are only using the basic features, the video conferencing application may be free or at a reduced cost. However, if you want to take advantage of more sophisticated features, the cost of the subscription can quickly increase.
For collaborative work to take place effectively, it is necessary to support them and put in place suitable tools. And above all, it is not enough to decree the advent of collaborative work for everything to fall into place as if by magic. According to the Mindjet study, the first pitfall of collaboration as it is practiced today is precisely the lack of sharing of ideas. This is the first avenue for improvement cited by those interviewed: joint development does not go far enough.
As for the other brakes that prevent collaborative work from being deployed effectively, they are mainly linked to an organizational problem: a plan and objectives that are not sufficiently defined in the management of the project, vagueness in the assignment of tasks to within the team and a follow-up of the progress which lags over time.
Collaborating online is a very practical form of working that is becoming more and more popular and tends to become standard in a growing number of companies. Although it has some drawbacks, its advantages far outweigh them because it allows distant people to easily communicate with each other. However, be careful not to overdo it, and to continue to host real meetings as human interaction is sometimes necessary to maintain a healthy workplace environment.
Frequently asked questions:
How to adapt employees to collaborative work?
The implementation of collaborative work necessarily implies support for employees. This support must be approached in a comprehensive manner.
Communicate and position collaborative work as an organizational issue
It is essential to have a coherent management discourse and a best practice of collaboration. It is crucial to legitimize collaborative initiatives that will allow employees to engage without restraint.
Create an immediate experience of collaborative work
Collaborative work must be viewed pragmatically. Collaborative work is very easy to experience and brings significant results quickly. The development of collaborative skills is done primarily through practice. This learning will involve both participating employees and the rest of the organization.
Top management must sponsor collaborative initiatives throughout the life of the project. He will be able to identify good practices, deviations from existing operating methods and consider the necessary organizational changes.
Whether with managers or employees, it is essential to set up a training plan dedicated to the deployment of collaborative work. This can be done in connection with the ownership of the collaborative portal. A change of this nature creates tensions, fears. Training provides reassurance by creating a natural bridge between existing practice and the new work organization.
How to promote collaborative work in business?
Develop a climate of trust by making information transparent
Collaborative work relies on an organization in which information flows simply and spontaneously. To do this, reduce the prior validation phases. Spread your communications more widely. Forget the time-consuming and often obsolete quarterly internal journal even before its release and use the collaborative portal to communicate. Simplify the message, the formats and increase the recurrence of your deliveries.
Create a recognition system that values collaborative work
There is no question of abolishing the recognition of individual work. It is thus possible to assess the individual effort in the group’s lifelong participation in its collective success. User contributory activity in the collaborative portal can be an effective measure. It is also recommended to integrate collective objectives and to assess collaborative skills.
Set up an efficient collaborative portal
Delete internal emails and organize all of your collaborative and communication activity within a collaborative portal.