Collaboration: Who's on First, the "Group" or "Me"?

Ann All

With collaboration thrust into the role of hottest enterprise software space (this week, anyway), we expect to see lots of commentary on both the current state of collaboration and the idea of Web 2.0ish tools like blogs and wikis being used to take it to a new -- and hopefully improved -- level.


A recent /Message blog post on the topic got our attention with its insistence that IBM (and by extension, other big companies like Microsoft) are getting it wrong because their collaboration products focus on the group.


A better approach, says blogger Stowe Boyd, is one in which user rights and capabilities are linked to individuals rather than to groups. He calls it "me first" collaboration.


Huh. We didn't major in English, but we were pretty sure that collaboration had something to do with a group. So we looked it up. From the Cambridge dictionary: "when two or more people work together to achieve the same thing."


We think we get the gist of Boyd's post. Putting a higher value on individual identities might facilitate broader business collaboration rather than pigeonholing folks into narrowly defined groups.


Yet we must go back to another of Boyd's own points. In social networking outside the enterprise sphere, folks "don't need to participate in groups to exist or share -- or to matter -- in this world."


Fair enough. Despite all of their evangelizing about "the community," many social networkers use tools like blogs and wikis as just another way of saying, "look at me."


It's all good -- unless, of course, you are a project manager. Which is why we're not sure that Boyd's "me first" approach to collaboration would work well in most enterprises.

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