Technology Alone Won’t Solve Our Collaboration Problems

In the IT profession, the profession of technology, it can be tempting to reduce just about every problem to a technology problem. Mark Mortensen tackles this issue in an article for the Harvard Business Review. He finds that collaboration, a fundamentally important human activity, still requires us to address technological problems with solutions that are social:

…more often than not, the problem we’re facing isn’t a technological one, but a social one…Teaching, consulting, and working with executives across industries and geographies has provided me with lots of evidence of a simple truth: it’s not what technology you’ve got, but how you use it.

Give People Context

With collaboration tools like Skype and FaceTime, it seems almost trivial to talk about long-distance collaboration problems. After all, who could have fathomed only decades ago being able to interface with a colleague or manager in real-time? Yet a critical problem related to video conferencing is the lack of context created by the narrow screen view. Mortensen recommends showing (via moving the laptop around) your host the context in which you’re communicating.

Don’t Take it Out on People

Then there is the issue of the dropped call, the fuzzy screen, whatever. It’s the infinite legacy of technology to wow us 364 days of the year, only to fail us miserably on the eve of the report, during the big meeting, etc. But who do we often blame, even if it’s only implied? That’s right, the other user! This is called “displacement,” and as long as we’re aware of it, we can prevent our technological frustrations from ruining our important social interactions.

Governing Knowledge

Additionally, knowledge management is about using technology to ensure that an organization is efficiently utilizing the knowledge it already possesses, right? Yes, except that the part about using technology is a bit inaccurate. Certainly, implementing a knowledge management system (KMS) involves technology in some form or other, but ultimately it is a group of people who must adopt that technology / system, who must ensure that it runs smoothly.

Read the original article at:

Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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