Collaboration = Knowledge sharing

For service and knowledge based organization to flourish, the ability to transfer knowledge and create value is essential. While there have been trends that increase remote working environments or teleworking, there is a risk that the reduced interaction, both intended and unintended, will limit value creating opportunities.

Our position on collaboration cites that it is the “diffusion” or unintended collaborations that have the greatest potential value to drive an organization.  We also cite the fact that individuals suffer from bounded rationality. As rational individuals we are limited by the knowledge we have or don’t know, and the time in which to resolve challenges.

It is flawed logic to assume that collaboration is possible from a remote location when it is impossible to know the expertise of all colleagues across all disciplines.  Therefore it is not rational to assume that when we have a problem to solve that we will know exactly who is capable of assisting us. Open floor plans provide an open window to all conversations and invite casual observers the opportunity to help add value/share knowledge that we wont necessarily know exists in colleagues.

As a result it is unreasonable to expect that collaboration can exist remotely via technology.  It can’t.  We cant know when a colleague will randomly enter our collaborative effots and help us solve a problem that might otherwise take a week to solve.

The open floor plate is the window to unexpected solutions and should be encouraged.

Further, open floor plates are more likely to succeed when the individual potential collaborators are placed in proximity.

Some years back, a group of workplace researchers at MIT came up with the “30-Meter Rule,” which says that “the frequency of one person’s interaction with another person sitting more than 30 meters (about 99 feet) away is about the same as if the two people were located in different buildings (or cities).”1

If an organization is looking to collaboration as a potential source of value creation, then proximity of potential collaborators is key.”

1.T. J. Allen, “Communications Networks in R&D Laboratories,” R&D Management, Vol. 1, 1970.

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