At talkSpirit, we like words, especially their meaning. And there is one that we really like: ‘collaborative’, a very popular hashtag in the spheres of HR and innovation. But as it trends on Twitter, do we really have what it takes to understand what it is? Could it be just another meaningless ‘trend topic’? We wanted to explore the subject and reached out to digital transformation expert Emmanuel Vivier, co-founder of the HUB Institute and author of the Guide de la Transformation Digitale (Guide to Digital Transformation). Let’s talk ‘collaborative’ Emmanuel!
talkSpirit: The #collaborative hashtag is widely used in the digital transformation press these days. Can you give us your definition of ‘collaborative’? Is this simply a trend or is it part of our reality?
Emmanuel Vivier: The concept of ‘collaborative’, in my opinion, is above all a value. It’s the desire to engage employees in a transformatory process which involves everyone in any given group. But a value must immediately be implemented in order to make sense. It’s thus a whole culture that needs to be implemented over time, guided by concrete examples while participants are informed of the expected behaviors. A corporate culture is not collaborative by nature; you have to breathe life into it and make it live in your teams.
When we talk about value, we think of ‘company values’. Does the collaborative have its place amongst them?
E.V.: It’s exactly the same idea! This is a good example of implementing a collaborative culture within a company: offering employees the opportunity to co-create values. Employees are often unaware of the values of the company in which they evolve. And for good reason, these values usually emanate from management to employees in a top-down logic that is still the norm in many countries, including France. Providing employees with the opportunity to co-create a set of company values allows them to immediately own them, thus basing the corporate culture on this notion of sharing. The collaborative is also that, the sharing of values, the core idea being to align the interests of all collaborators in order to create a unifying movement.
And in terms of external communication, is the ‘collaborative’ still relevant?
E.V.: Of course! Sharing company values with the outside world is always part of the digital transformation. In this day and age, we can no longer function without others. And this fact is increasingly part of the reality of large organizations. They come to this conclusion after taking a close look at open innovation, while working alongside startups in the quest to create project synergies that bring change. This is similar to what Apple is doing; the tech giant discloses their API to many developers looking to sell their project. Today, growth is not necessarily associated with gaining market share through competition. One can also find an equally interesting modus vivendi via partnership, in short, through collaboration.
Co-llaborative, co-creation… Does the spirit of sharing prevail in the digital transformation?
E.V.: Clearly, we’re now living though “co” era. Even our workspaces have become “coworking” spaces. In Scandinavian countries, “co-management” is now a fait accompli! Not to mention the decentralized companies and concepts like holacracy which are making huge strides. Without going that far, the basic idea behind collaboration is to realize that everyone in an organization is part of the same boat and that the information must flow for it to work. Today, I like to say that we no longer pull people out of bed for ROI. Collaborators now look for a bigger purpose such as meaning, freedom, and even empowerment.
When we talk about ‘collaborative’, we inevitably think about collaborative tools such as enterprise social networks. What do these tools evoke for you?
E.V.: I am convinced that entreprise social networks are very useful for broadcasting information and increasing transparency. But we must not lose sight of the human component. We’ve been saying, especially at the HUB Institute, that the digital transformation consists of more than implementing tools; digital transformation is first and foremost about human transformation. If we want to set up a collaborative tool such as an ESN, it’s important, as I said earlier, to first create a corporate culture conducive to the integration of these kinds of tools.
Concretely, what advice would you give to a company that wants to set up a enterprise social network?
E.V.: One recommendation would be to rely on agile development methods through a pilot team that will test the network before it’s launch. Then of course, we must select the appropriate solution, and guide the users as they take charge of it. Another recommendation would be to not opt for a enterprise social network for its appeal, but to instead consider the kind of information that you will need to share across this network. Failure to proceed this way is guaranteed to result in an unsuccessful outcome. For example, your team may decide that the monitoring task will be shared on the platform only, and at no other location. That’s the practice we’ve adopted at the Hub and it works very well. But for this to work, you have to define the line of conduct beforehand and of course, communicate it to your employees!
As a conclusion, could you give us one key phrase? Would it be ‘collaborate to transform’? ‘Transform to collaborate’? ‘Collaborate more to work better’?
E.V.: Collaborate better to create a common vision!