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Social Collaboration as a Team-Building Tool

12/7/15 5:30 AM


My first taste of corporate team-building was a group outing with a team of consultants that involved a mind-mapping exercise and personality test. The consultants had taped off a large area outside our building, creating a grid with four equal quadrants along an X and Y axis. As we shared our test results, we were instructed to stand where our profiles determined we belonged on the grid -- and to look around at those standing near us, and who shared many of our personality traits. The goal of this exercise was to better understand our own personality traits and those of our teammates, and then use that understanding to improve our communication.

Many assume that collaboration tools inherently support team-building, but technology can often have the opposite effect -- allowing people to separate themselves, and operate in an even more introverted manner.

And like many team-building activities, the effects were short-lived. By the following Monday, it was as if the event never even happened. The problem was that the organization had not experienced any real change, and people quickly went back to their old habits. We had learned some interesting data points about ourselves and each other, but the culture of the team had remained unchanged.

What would have made the entire exercise more valuable -- and the effects more lasting -- would have been the application of this learning to some of our internal practices, such as how we ran team meetings, or in how we trained each other on new technologies and system changes. If we had taken the time to discuss how this learning could be incorporated into our internal culture, I'm confident the team would have generated a number of ideas.

Thinking back on that team-building exercise (and many more just like it), it is clear to me now that we had entered into the activity without a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve, and how what we learned would be aligned with our day-to-day business activity.

To some, social collaboration is just hype. They look at features without understanding the requisite cultural changes that need to happen for the technology to be effective, and to deliver real business value. Generally speaking, collaboration is most effective when the technology is aligned with the business activities -- both the inputs (how we capture information) and the outputs (how we measure success). In other words, instead of just deploying SharePoint, giving your employees access, and then assuming that they'll find their way to productivity, understand the tools you’re making available to them and how to best use them -- and have a plan in place.

When I think of team-building now, my mind does not jump to offsite activities and productivity consultants, but to collaboration fundamentals: How are my people communicating? Are they sharing knowledge? Are they more collaborative? And can the content and knowledge they create be easily discovered?

When people ask me about the business value of social collaboration, that is how I answer them. Social collaboration improves communication and collaboration. It encourages knowledge sharing, and it enhances the discovery of content, expertise, and corporate intelligence. But it doesn't just do this on its own -- it takes planning, and an understanding of how the many social collaboration features align with what my business is trying to achieve. When properly deployed, social collaboration tools are the ultimate team-building activity because they help rewire your culture and break down the system and communication silos that build up over time.

When people can easily find the content they need, when they can share their expertise and ideas, and when collaboration becomes more transparent -- teams thrive.

At Beezy, we believe in the transformative power of social collaboration. Our software solution is built on top of SharePoint, whether online or on-prem, and provides a power set of features that extend and enhance the SharePoint experience to deliver the user experiences that the modern workplace expects. If you would like to see a demo of Beezy, please contact us.

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