Sunday, 29 December 2013

LIKE 50: Collaborate or die

It's been so busy at work and in life recently that I've had little time to do any writing. However, here's a little catch-up of LIKE's 50th event - The Business case for Collaboration. To celebrate reaching this number, the group decided to coordinate their event with the Online Information 2013 conference and invite their keynote speaker Jacob Morgan, author of The Collaborative Organisation, to speak about collaboration and the way workplaces have to be willing to change to thrive in the future.

The evening was very much an interactive affair with him asking questions, inviting examples and so on, which kept it very much in the spirit of LIKE.

The main points which came out of the discussions were:

  • Millenials are very picky about where they work - they like to have social media available, have a flexible work/ life balance, are not necessarily in it for the money and are increasingly working for themselves e.g. portfolio working.
  • As job security no longer exists and if millenials choose flexibility and other criteria  over money then big companies may not exist in the future, unless they choose to adapt
  • With social media now widespread, workers are no longer tied to their organisations as they create personal profiles and reputations instead and find it much easier to talk to people in other organisations
  • The  downside of this is that they rarely switch off and the work/life balance can become skewed
There was quite a lot of conversation about whether universities will exist in the future. Jacob's argument was that as graduates leave with increasing levels of debt they will be working to just to pay the debt off and will become 'unengaged zombies'. There will be less of an incentive to pay for an education. There will also be less of a need as they will find it easier and cheaper to build up skills themselves through Youtube and MOOCs. While I do think the current government may be trying to hasten the closure of many universities, I don't think there are any silver bullets to take over just yet.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Rees
There was also a lot of discussion about social media and the use of text analytics - a few people gave examples of colleagues who had been fired because their Facebook profile didn't 'fit' their employees company profile.While others, myself included, thought that it was very shortsighted if a company didn't learn how to use it well.

Jacob emphasised that collaboration helps employees as well as the company's bottom line. It helps them be more effective in their jobs, encourages teamwork, breaks down barriers, and reduces stress BUT only if it is seamlessly integrated into working life, not 'yet another thing to do', is not micromanaged, is measured appropriately, and is taken seriously by management.

As a so-called 'millenial' I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with much of what Jacob had to say. I use social media, save my work in the cloud, and consider librarians in other institutions my colleagues, however, I also think that while it's great to work for an organisation which is forward-thinking, offers flexible working and values individuals, much of the conversation was based on the top 10% (the Alphas in life) who are generally in a position to not worry so much about paying the bills. It will be interesting to see if companies change to benefit everyone else.

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