One of the earliest promises of the internet was the concept of improved collaboration. Drawings and early concepts showed businesses, classrooms and the family working and communicating together in real-time while dispersed all over the city or the globe. The vision of being apart and yet still doing work as naturally and fluidly as if you were in the same room was easy to imagine as a promising and exciting future.
But somewhere along the way our technological advances seemed to fail us. Despite many discoveries that seemed to indicate that we were getting closer, true collaboration has remained not just elusive… but at times actively avoided. IoT, VP2P and cloud services have provided some of the pieces, but none of them have been put together to provide a full solution to the problem of doing actual collaborative work.
Business has largely contented itself with video conferencing as what collaboration means to an office. The importance of face-to-face communication should not be understated, but ultimately video conferencing is about the conversation and not the work product. Being able to discuss, debate and agree in a format that reveals body language does help to personalize the experience, but it doesn’t create the artifact that lives on once the meeting has ended.
Collaboration isn’t about a single moment in time; it’s an ongoing journey. Being able to work both together and independently with active, living workspaces is what the often-overlooked Google Drive service aims to provide. But these services rarely feel integrated into companies and have yet to become true enterprise solutions. They sit as add-ons, components whose value has yet to be unlocked because they are treated as auxiliary rather than core to a business. Being able to create, edit, and collaborate in a living workspace should be the heart and soul of a company, rather than a tool that is brought out for a singular purpose.
Workplace disruptors like Slack were successful in no small part because they created a speed of business that was not reliant on a single individual. The product did not aim to create a tool for a single person; it aimed to start with the group first and removed manual elements that slowed down conversation. The concept was not revolutionary; business-based chat and work groups is a concept that has been with us for decades. But it was the positioning of Slack that made it special. It was designed to create continual motion… with or without an individual.
We live in a world where all of the parts are now available to bring collaboration to the center of business. We have the network capability, the projects and tools, the video equipment and the input methods that enable everyone to be engaged. What is missing is the psychology of true business transformation. The user experience that takes these random pieces and pulls them together to create a cohesive working experience that starts with open, living workspaces.
True collaboration is not a new concept; but it’s one that has yet to fulfill its early promises. By focusing on the experience of collaboration first, and not individual pieces of the technology, we may finally be ready to deliver on the dream.
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