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Foundation Principles of Collaboration


So I get this new assignment at work, transfer to our Next Generation Office (NGO) initiative as the "subject matter expert" for the collaboration strategy. OK I think - what do I know about collaboration; not much just interested. So off we go to Cisco for a 'collaboration briefing' - it was great, totally mind-blowing and entirely over-whelming.

Now back to work - starting from scratch to build a collaboration strategy is a bit daunting and I decided to go back to basic so I could form a solid understanding of what collaboration would mean in my enterprise. So what is collaboration:

"Some number of people getting together to talk about things and coming up with solutions for stuff." Wow, I though how insightful <grin>. Neverthless I plugged ahead and started thinking about what were the foundation principles of collaboration. Things common across all technologies, people, etc. I wanted to use these to build out the corporate strategy.

Information      Access     Engagement

Information - the ability to know things about your business; what's going on, what's being discussed, who's working on what. Our business is very 'siloed' right now and we need effective ways of getting information about what's going on - it sounds pretty basic but I think critical.

Access - speaks to the 'how' we get information. This one is going to be a challenge as we currently suffer from 'death-by-email' Effective methods or aggregation, delivery, subscription and publishing are what builds the information. People need seek out the 'news' they are interested in and need to follow what concerns or interest them.

Engagement - If you get the first two right I think this one come along naturally. There's a lot of talk and research out there covering employee engagement - a staggering amount but if I could dilute it done to a simple phrase. "People are naturally engaged with things that they personally find interesting or essential". This is a real cornerstone of collaboration. We can't know what everyone in our enterprise is interested/concerned with so we have to get the information out there to allow engagement. I don't think this is really something you need to work at - you just need the first two.

OK - so that's my first blog on this site. Comments, criticisms and thoughts are welcome, but I'm a newbie so please be gentle.


Frequent Contributor

Welcome, Steve!  Thanks for your first blog post, and hope there will be many more to come.  I've moved it to the Business Conversations and Sharing for more exposure.

Laura Douglas

Cisco Collaboration Community Manager


Great set of principles.  At Cisco we talk of collaboration have the following three pillars or pinciples: culture (people), technology, and process.

There's a good mapping here with technology as information falls under the technology stack and access crosses technology and culture in that people will use the tools they know to access relevant information.  Engagement also maps to culture and touches on process as you become engaged when something is relevant to your workflow.

I look at collaboration as making and executing decisions.  That decision could be as basic as "This information needs to be shared with these people via those vehicles." or it could be strategic and complex "We need to combine these three functional silos into a new business process to reduce costs and complexity."  The point being collaboration for the sake of collaboration isn't useful without an end goal in mind.  Of course, sometimes the point of collaboration is to set that end goal, or in a command-control structure somebody has set the end goal and it's a collaborative effort on how to get there.  This is where the complexity of collaboration begins to show- do we collaborate on everything, or do we have a Harry S. Truman to tell us where the buck stops.

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