Organizational Collaboration: Four Foundations – Overview


A couple of weeks ago, I opened a new foray into organizational collaboration here on my blog. You can read that introductory post (October 13) for the context and my philosophy about organizational collaboration. In this post, I’ll put up the four foundations, and then in subsequent posts will discuss them more fully. That’s basically the flow that I took with the 7 Pillars (for team collaboration).

The Four Foundations
The four foundations of organizational collaboration are technology capabilties that offer:

  1. Summarized Expertise … Who are the people in your organization, and what are they good at?
  2. Correlated Knowledge … What is known about a particular topic in your organization, and who has demonstrated knowledge in a particular topic?
  3. Signalled Activity … What are people working on or doing at your organization?
  4. Expressed Interests … What interests do people have at your organization?

Meet Julian
So here’s the flow in an organization. Julian works in the product development department or group. During the day he talks to people. Writes emails. Authors and contributes to documents (whether traditional files or online pages as in a wiki). Goes to meetings. He “does stuff” in the normal course of his work day, and a lot of his activity is aligned with particular product development projects. As a consequence of this normal everyday work, he weaves and leaves a digital trail (“trail” sounds better than “droppings”, right?). It’s in the capturing and leveraging of that digital trail that the four foundations come into play. The trail creates a corpus of data that is either beneficial by itself or acts as a pointer to a person for interaction and engagement.

Let’s take an example. One of Julian’s current projects is the design of a new widget, “Widget 15”. Whenever he writes an email to colleagues about “Widget 15”, that phrase is included. Whenever he posts to the project blog about the status of his work, “Widget 15” is mentioned directly in the text, or is implied because it’s on the “Widget 15 Blog”. He attends a lot of face-to-face and virtual meetings about “Widget 15”, and these are scheduled using the calendar in the team’s collaborative workspace.

Now looking at the four foundations, that means:
– When someone looks up Julian in the directory or profile system, they should see that “Widget 15” is something he’s good at (foundation 1).
– When someone is looking into “Widget 15” — via a search or on a tag cloud — Julian should be flagged as a relevant person (foundation 2).
– People should have a way of opting in to receive updates about “Widget 15” (foundation 3).
– Julian is able to note an interest in “fabrication processes” related to widgets, and discover other people with similar interests (foundation 4).

Next Steps
As I said, this was the high-level introduction to the four foundations. I’ll be writing more about these in the coming days. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please make use of the blog commenting capabilities below.

0 thoughts on “Organizational Collaboration: Four Foundations – Overview

  1. Hi Michael,
    Really great to come across your work and the theoretical thoughts you’re building in this space. I’ve recently co-founded http://www.binaryplex.com which is targetting exactly this space. In fact I can map your four foundations to our emerging product features one for one.
    What’s interesting is that we’ve had a lot of design debate around your Foundation 3 because we’ve felt that it perhaps detracts from the focus of what we are doing, which is enabling smarter profiling and location of people and confuses it with competing with an Enterprise search type tool.
    I recently gave a talk at an unconference here in Melbourne which spoke exactly about this and also used the term “Digital Trail”. The title of my talk was “Hidden Signals in Organisations, following the digital trail”.
    While there have been some efforts into automating the discovery of these digital trails in the past, I think that Enterprise 2.0 is a signalled a real change in organisations readiness to want to discover this information.
    I’d propose a foundation 5 which is that having put all of the first four in place, you can now enable knowledge managers to monitor the collective signals and expertise internally in ways they haven’t been easily able to before. As an organisation when Julian leaves the organisation, I should immediately be flagged that my available expertise on “Widget 15” has now decreased.
    Andrew Mitchell introduced me to this blog and mentioned you may possibly be in Melbourne in December. If so, we’d love to meet, share a coffe and talk some more on discovering the hidden signals in organisations. If you’re interested we can even demonstrate some of the early design of our system.
    You can find contact details on the website, or DM me on Twitter http://twitter.com/timbull

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