Have Accounts of Web 2.0’s “Death” in the Workplace Been Greatly Exaggerated?
Stowe Boyd’s The Rise and Fall of Work Media is a welcome albeit late assessment of what's happening with "web 2.0" tools in the workplace. Boyd focuses on teams and the rising importance of chat-type tools (for example, Slack) along with a decline of the fortunes of companies like my long-ago client Jive.
As some including me have pointed out in the past, working businesses have always engaged in social interaction. Boyd’s observed decline in the use of broadcast and centralized media (along with the continued refusal-to-die of media such as email) may indicate a real workplace trend.
While I respect what Boyd is saying about the "decline" of web 2.0 tools, there are additional points to consider when discussing workplace collaboration:
- It's not just about the workplace. No matter how hard we try to provide a secure platform for workplace collaboration the typical organization needs to share information with people "on the outside" such as contractors, business partners, vendors, and customers. These constantly shifting populations require easy to configure collaboration solutions as the rise in both low-friction team chat tools and the continued ubiquity of email.
- Misinformation is as easily shared as a "real" information. While "fake news" gets a lot of attention in today's political environment, making it easier for workplace teams to communicate also can increase the likelihood that misinformation -- or even disinformation -- will be spread throughout the workplace. As organizations become more porous (see point number one above) how do we manage this misinformation risk?
- Low friction team collaboration tools can introduce as well as reduce barriers to communication. The ability to create a team-focused workspace where instant communication can occur along team members might also make it easier to create barriers to sharing information with other teams. One reason is that teams tend to evolve their own terminology to communicate which may differ from how other teams communicate. The natural adoption of communication "shorthand" among small teams may accelerate communication within the team but might also cause confusion when other teams -- or management -- are brought “into the loop.”
None of these three factors is insurmountable. They do reinforce how complex workplace collaboration is. It's unlikely that a "one-size-fits-all" solution for all types of formal and informal communication and information sharing, inside and outside the organization, will ever emerge. Sometimes you need to have a quiet and private conversation with a coworker. Sometimes you need to broadcast a secure official message to all hands.
The bottom line is that workplace collaboration is always going to be messy. Maybe that's not such a bad idea, after all.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald