Collaboration

Location and Cross Functional Work

Team WorkIf "Location, Location, Location" is the mantra in the real estate world, I'm starting to believe that it should also be the mantra of cross functional teams as well. After a heated debate over whether or not location is important in producing quality work, I decided to watch.
Then I traveled to our office in another country.
Before long, I was asked by a colleague about a certain product we are working on. We decided to have a ten minute meeting out in the sun and talk about it. I shared some simple facts about that product, and I was very happy to know the next day that this gave him a good edge in his offering to the client, and the order more than doubled just because of that addition! The same day, we shared another product with another colleague, and with one simple recommendation, we were able to eliminate a lot of frustration about that product with a very small modification. These same colleagues were able to assist me in some partnerships I was trying to make, and we decided on several steps to get these things done.
I became a believer.
Had I not traveled on this trip, would we have not been able to "get our jobs done". Yes we would. But it's not about just getting the work done. It's about jumping to new places, and levels. It's about creating a harmony in the team, that would almost automate the process of innovation and creation. It's about being in a vibrant group that is more like an orchestra than a "business unit".
I am just remembering the way "friendships" were formed during my college years. They were based on a very simple and pure criterion: whether or not you attended the same elective classes together! We used to become close friends, share intimate information with each other, and they become special people in our lives. Of course much of this expires when the course ends and we acquire new friends.
An important psychological factor in this is that people start to view the world in a similar manner when they spend enough time with each other. A closer look shows that we start to adopt the positions of the people we work / live with, in the same place. My reasoning is that although there are logical reasons that push us to think similarly with close people, there is another hidden reason why we tend to take similar positions. We don't want to break whatever harmony there is, and we find it difficult to reject these people when they are expressing strong emotions. Of course, this is an investment we do, so that eventually we are given the chance to freely express our feelings.
Imagine what can happen when people with opposing points of view (sales and production or marketing and finance) sit together and start seeing the world from a similar perspective, and start sympathizing with one another! You get harmony. You get great results.

Web 2.0 Offline - A Real Life Example

One of our local radio stations is providing its listeners with the option of recording their voice for special song dedications. One of the listeners, actually speakers now, has turned this into a real offline Web 2.0 application.
Most of the people recording their dedications just do that, they say to whom they would like to dedicate this song, and how much they love that person, blah blah blah.
One of these people took this service to a really new level. She started recording certain messages to certain people. Talking to one of her friends, she would wish him a safe trip to his destination, and wish that he accomplishes the goal of that trip. To another friend of hers, she would apologize for the things that she said yesterday and ask for forgiveness. She would have two friends who are not really understanding of each other's differences, and talk to both and try to find a compromise or a midway where they can communicate again together.
All this is done publicly, and all listeners would listen to this. It is becoming more like an interesting series of stories related to this one person, who they have never met, but started to know and identify with!
Next? She became a star! Other listeners who are familiar with her messages started recording their own messages just thanking her and complementing her on how great a job she is doing to get friends closer to each other!
One person decided to use the platform her own way, she used it for her own interest. She became famous, others start to complement her, and eventually new ways of using this recording service will be used by other people.
The radio station is only providing the context for people to record and publish their messages (and they get paid for each sound recording). The users are finding creative ways of using it, and since they are given the chance to publish their voice, they are doing the word-of-mouth advertising for the service since it makes them famous.
This is a really great example of how any application can be utilized in a context where the users can find ways to actively participate in the creation of content, and they will definitely do the marketing for that service or experience provided.

Web 2.0 Offline

While thinking about the different applications Web 2.0 is bringing us, I have been also thinking about how this might be implemented offline, in media that are not based on the Web, and more importantly, applications where the media are not involved at all.
The main aspects, or components that make any application a Web 2.0 application are user-generated content, community empowerment (where the community decides what is and what is not acceptable), and the service provider acts merely as a platform for these activities to happen. This platform is a passive aggregator of whatever the community chooses to produce, and works only on making the platform easier to use, more efficient and effective at realizing the goals of the users and the community, and finally, works on marketing that platform.
In other words, I like to think of Web 2.0 as a new phenomenon of doing business, community activities, and transforming any aspect of our lives and work.
An application I imagined was having a city without a police force. That was my opening example for my presentation on this topic, in an attempt to make it familiar to the audience, and to show them that it is not that technical or complicated, it's just a really new way of doing things.
The police department of city X decides to empower its citizens by allowing them to photograph all the cars that are violating the law, and sending them via email to the department. The officers there will take a look at the photos, and if there is sufficient proof that the car is actually violating the law, a ticket will be issued, and sent to the car owner.

Why would anyone take photos?

I first thought that only people with nothing better to do than pick on other people's mistakes would be engaged in such a thing. But I immediately remembered the frustration I feel when some people park in front of our parking and stop us from getting in or out of our own house. Sometimes, we are in a hurry, sometimes guests are coming, and it is really frustrating to have to deal with it. In such a moment, I will definitely pick up my mobile phone, take a picture of that car, and immediately send it for him to receive his ticket. The beautiful thing is that there are other people also living in the same street who are frustrated with this, and probably one of us will take the picture.
A basic principle of Web 2.0, is that people engage in it for their self-interest. I would really be interested in doing this for our street, and might do it here and there occasionally, but I'm sure the people living there will make sure nobody intrudes. Since everyone will be using the system to protect their own street, almost all streets will be protected this way.

What benefits does it have for the police department?

This method provides much greater coverage for the department. Police officers cannot be everywhere all the time, and people will eventually learn that to take care of their neighborhood, they have the means for that, and they should do it. There will also be a lot more understanding and cooperation with normal citizens who will have the chance to be police officers whenever they need to be! This eliminates the "us vs. them" attitude, and transforms the community into a whole big "us" where "they" would be the ones breaking the law in a certain instance.
Eventually, when this becomes the norm in a certain society, policemen will be less needed to waste their time writing tickets, and can focus more on more important and deeper aspects of their work, like focusing on combatting organized crime, and training for more sophisticated skills.   

How does it benefit the society?

Just like society makes sure the social and ethical norms are being taken care of, again through their pursuit of self-interest, this circle will be expanded to included new areas never tackled before, it should also foster a new sense of cooperation and responsibiliy among people toward increasingly more aspects of their lives.

How to implement?

The first thing is to make this system available while keeping everything the way it is. This provides a buffer, since you cannot know when exactly the use will be widespread in society. Therefore, you keep things going as they are, advertise for the new system, start mentioning instances where this has happened, warn law-breakers that Big Brother has become one of your own, and sit back and watch the photos coming!

Crowdsourcing is an Ancient Discipline


Although strongly facilitated by computers and the Web, has been used in other fields without the use of the Internet. Of course it is a lot easier and much more efficient, but I would like to highlight a system that beautifully and naturally utilized this approach.
That system is calligraphy.
When was a new style of calligraphy invented? Who invented it? We only know the period, and a group of people who were active in creating that style. There are the big influential calligraphers, and the other ones with small contributions. The "source code" of calligraphy is contained within the letter itself. The length and height of a letter is determined by a certain number of dots above or beside each other. Popular opinion and taste are what determine which improvement is to be adopted, and with time, a certain style evolves. Who created it?
The Crowd...

How Crowdsourcing is Using Too Many Cooks, Without Spoiling the Broth

Outsourcing, insourcing, open sourcing... What's next?
Crowdsourcing...!
I remember reading about a great method Walt Disney would use in developing his themes. It relied on tapping into the minds of anyone who wanted to participate.
Simply, the project manager would post the main theme / idea on a highly visible bulletin board, and all employees are encouraged to post their comments, add their insights, and share whatever feelings they have regarding that idea.
I thought, "wow! this is truly great in allowing people to contribute to one big idea, and a democratic and human way of allowing anyone to participate to whatever extent they want and can. This is really teamwork."
"Too many cooks spoil the broth" we were taught. Well... not with the Internet, and definitely not at Walt Disney.
Nowadays, we all know that this is the "normal" way of harnessing collective intelligence. Wikipedia is best example that demonstrates the power of global cooperation. (funnily enough, the master crowsourcer needs some support in their article on crowdsourcing. I, considering myself a crowdsourcer contributed with information I thought to be relevant)
Although we are all adding to the global information base through our writing, commenting, and all the social networking programs available, crowdsourcing is evolving to become one of the reliable business practices for product development, market research and design.
Several companies are adopting this method and actually rewarding the successfull contributors of the best ideas with cash.
A recent example that I stumbled upon was Cambrian House, which is a website named after the Cambrian era in which major diversification occurred on Earth. This is a company, focused on creating innovative products, software, and simply great ideas. They are also offering lucrative psychological and fianancial rewards for the greatest idea providers.
Ideawarz is one of their cool project competitions where sixteen ideas compete in four rounds, and the best single idea wins.
Crowdsourcing is another example of leveraging the long tail. Many people contribute with insignificant improvements on the same idea. But the combined total of these contributions make a really considerable difference.
Although it's a really exciting concept, limitations present themselves in sophisticated and technical products and services where highly educated people are required to crowdsource. With general products also, a significant number of people have to participate to really reap the benefits.