posted 16 Feb 2005 in Volume 8 Issue 5
Thought Leader: Collaboration
By Martyn Laycock, LKN and University of Greenwich Business School
If, in knowledge-management circles, there was to be a ‘word of the year’ award, ‘collaboration’ would probably have been a very strong contender in 2004. Despite connotations in the past that collaborators were people who ‘worked with the enemy’, today collaboration is a word that simultaneously captures the spirit and represents one of the underpinning tenets of KM: that of working together to achieve common goals and objectives.
Naturally, collaboration in itself is no panacea. Those who seek to enter into or encourage collaboration need first to consider the pitfalls as well as the potential benefits. Collaborative partners need to be chosen wisely; collaborative programmes need to be well planned, well led and well managed; and, the impacts of change, especially cultural change, need to be carefully considered and factored in if the benefits of collaboration are to be realised.
That said, during my global assignments over the past 12 months, I have found collaboration receiving ever-greater prominence in workshops and in conference schedules. In Asia-Pacific, where I have run workshops on the subject, in North America and across
For me, it is the human-centric rather than technology-centric aspects of collaboration that need the most attention if long-term, wider knowledge-based benefits are to be realised. Similarly, businesses need to recognise the opportunities to collaborate externally as well as internally, and there are encouraging signs that this is beginning to happen. In December 2003, the not-for-profit London Knowledge Network (LKN) was launched, under the banner, ‘Creating collaborative advantage’. By the time of the network’s first anniversary, it had no fewer than 16 large London-based organisations committed to working together towards this goal. In addition, the Global KM Forum, of which LKN is a member, brings together not-for-profit organisations from around the globe, and a meeting of academics and KM practitioners in
In 1998, Jeff Papows, then president and CEO of Lotus, described collaboration as “the DNA of knowledge management”. He did not understate the case. Collaboration – across organisations, across borders, across societies – will have an even greater role to play in the emerging knowledge-based economies and societies of the 21st century. With the development of open-source technologies, the introduction of open-source publishing, plus progress towards Tim Berners-Lee’s ‘semantic web’, I really do believe that collaboration is a word and a subject that we are going to hear a lot more about in years to come.