Collaboration – A Learnable Skill


I’ve built an entire career on positioning technology is an enabler, rather than a disruption to how work gets done. But SOMETIMES, technology disruptions are necessary. In some instances, you may find that’s it required or even just plain easier to upset the whole apple cart, start afresh, and give users something they’ve never experienced before.

Henry Ford

When truly disruptive technologies emerge, such as the automobile or the PC, there will always be early adopters—those pioneers who jump out front, and figure out things on their own. On the other end of the spectrum will be the non-converts—those who are content with making do with what they already have.

In the middle, are a group of folks who will likely need guidance to get started, no matter how intuitive it may seem. Case in point, the folks who needed instructions on how to use the telephone.


The same is true of enterprise social networks. Not everyone is born to be a great collaborator or narrator of their work. Thankfully, these are learnable skills, though not necessarily classroom trainable skills. They need a different approach than what you may have used before.

As Jane Hart explains,

“…you simply can’t train people to be social! What was required was getting down and dirty and helping people understand what it actually meant to work collaboratively in the new social workplace, and the value that this would bring to them.”

Teaching collaboration skills is more than teaching people how to click around in the tool, as Maria Ogneva explains:

“Your focus should be on demonstrating value and relevance and helping understand how the tool fits into their workflow. If you can help people tie their own success to it (more visibility, better career, more money), you are golden!”

And finally, Harold Jarche reminds of us the importance of creating a supportive social environment:

“Effective organizational collaboration comes about when workers regularly narrate their work within a structure that encourages transparency and shares power & decision-making.”

Can you teach collaboration skills? Yes. Can you teach it the same way you teach Excel? Not likely.

Ultimately, collaboration is a learned behavior that’s reinforced through guidance, practice, and helping each employee figure out how to make it work for how THEY want to get work done.


Photo Credits: Advice To Sink In SlowlyPinterestUFunk

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