Orchestrating Accidental Collaboration

A couple of years ago Billy Cripe wrote about the difference between intentional and accidental collaboration. During a discussion with the CTO at a government agency earlier this week, he mentioned how powerful he found the distinction, and that it was being used as a key mental model in their work:

Collaboration comes in two flavors: Accidental and Intentional. Enterprise 2.0 technologies have become very good at facilitating intentional collaboration. They are meeting us where we are at and linking people across distances, across political spectra, and across expertise domains.

Examples include the social network sites (I friend you, you friend me), Twitter (I follow you and read your stuff, you follow me and read my stuff) and blogs (I write, you read and comment, I answer and write again). In each case the decision to friend, follow and read are intentional. These technologies mimic human interactions as old as humanity – making introductions, updating friends followers fans and disciples and public declamation.

While technical mediation of these legacy human communication modes is interesting, it is not where most of the power and potential lie. Accidental Collaboration is.

Accidental Collaboration is when information created for one purpose is found, input, consumed, or influences another purpose. Examples abound in our everyday lives. Any time we perform a Google search or read an old answer on a discussion forum, we are accidentally collaborating with the original people who created that item.

More: Two Types of Collaboration

3 thoughts on “Orchestrating Accidental Collaboration

  1. In his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From”, Steven Johnson uses the term “Knowledge Accidents”. As one who spent 3 decades developing and implementing content and knowledge systems, it has been my pleasure to see how a people-centric social model provides the climate in which Accidental collaboration can happen. The content and process model of business has collapsed under its own weight. The emerging social model is rising to meet our need to create and share.

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