Sep 30

A Research Based Collaboration Platform Blueprint for Organizations

Autonomy, Collaboration, Collaboration Platform, EdTech, Enterprise Collaboration Platform, Informal Learning, Online Learning, Social Media, Virtual Learning Environment

Organizations are increasingly supplementing formal learning methods with informal learning initiatives. This is because we face a highly dynamic workplace, where each day, we deal with problems that we may never have encountered before. Traditionally, companies relied on employees’ past experience and special Research and Development teams for innovation. However, now survival skills include the ability to adapt and to collaborate formally and informally with individuals from diverse domains to arrive at solutions to complex, unprecedented problems.

Before beginning to design a collaboration platform for an organization, it is essential to understand how collaboration happens and what it can facilitate.

In an informal network each individual comes with a particular skill set, and an internal drive to learn from and to contribute to the network. When people with diverse backgrounds join forces, they bring out different sides of a problem that lead to richer and quicker solutions.

As Steven Johnson, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From says, “When ideas take form in this ‘hunch’ state, they need to collide with other ‘hunches’. Often times the thing that turns a hunch into a real breakthrough is another hunch that’s lurking in someone else’s mind, and you have to figure out a way to create systems that allow those hunches to come together and turn into something bigger than the sum of their parts.” Given this background, we look at a structured framework for collaboration within organizations.

A Collaboration Platform Blueprint for Organizations
Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk, and Nancy White provide a framework for building collaborative workplaces. According to them, organizations can foster three types of collaboration:

  1. Team collaboration—the members of the group are known, there are clear task dependencies, expected reciprocity, and explicit time-lines and goals 
  2. Community collaboration—there is a shared domain or area of interest, but the goal is more often focused on learning rather than on the task
  3. Network collaboration—starts with individual action and self-interest, which then accrues to the network as individuals contribute or seek something from the network

Any platform for collaboration should be designed based on a deep understanding of the collaboration philosophy and a defined framework. The platform should cater to individuals’ personal learning interests, give them ample opportunity to express themselves, and allow them to interact with people from diverse fields and from across borders. 

The tables below show how success criteria for each type of collaboration can be translated into a blueprint for a collaboration platform.

Success Criteria for Teams

Blueprint of the Collaboration Platform

For teams to be successful, members should have:

  • Common purpose or goals
  • Complex problems that a single person could not resolve on their own
  • An explicit process of getting things done
  • Knowledge of each other’s work, communication, and work styles
  • An admiration of the skills and abilities of fellow team-mates
  • Ample resources
  • Social and trust building activities


The collaboration platform should provide:

  • A place to post problems
  • An area for users to respond to problems
  • Capability to archive ideas
  • Capability to easily add or delete team areas
  • Capability to share documents that can be edited by multiple team members
  • Capability to rate solutions
  • A discussion forum


Essential Skills for Employees
Collaborating across domains and diverse cultural backgrounds
Capability to draw connections between unrelated sets of data


Success Criteria for Communities

Blueprint of the Collaboration Platform

For communities to be successful, members should have:

  • A topic that members care about
  • A coordinator
  • Social activities
  • Opportunities to practice and gain experience or learn from stories of other practitioners
  • A core group
  • Connectors in the community that help people find each other
  • Regular meetings
  • Appreciation of the silent peripheral people
  • Related communities


The collaboration platform should provide:

  • A place to describe the purpose of the community
  • A place to write blogs and articles
  • A network of community sites or blogs that can be accessed from a common place
  • The capability to assign different roles to users, such that one user can take on the role of a coordinator
  • A place for users to comment on blogs and articles
  • A chance to post quick messages
  • The capability to tag relevant content
  • A search tool
  • The capability to identify the people on the periphery who contribute comments
  • A capability to strongly monitor and moderate the community to keep it focused


Essential Skills for Employees
Capability to lead a community
Capability to moderate and contribute to a community
Reflective thinking and writing


Success Criteria for
Network Collaboration

Blueprint of the Collaboration Platform

For networks to be successful, members should have:

  • The technology to store and retrieve information
  • An appreciation of social technology, such as bookmarking
  • Connections between teams, communities, and their
    larger networks as source of new ideas
  • Related communities


The collaboration platform should provide:

  • Personal space to individuals
  • The capability for social bookmarking
  • A space to share personal interests
  • The capability to display an individual’s network


Essential Skills for Employees
Capability to skim through a lot of information and identify what you need
Capability to join the dots and make new connections


Another important consideration while implementing a collaboration platform is the launch. How you launch your organization’s collaboration platform can mean the difference between success and failure. A well-planned launch can make people engage with your platform. Some tips on how to launch a collaboration platform for your organization. 

Research Reference: Full Circle Associates, Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk, and Nancy White:

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