Cooperation Flows

I've posted before of the shift toward conversations and relationships within the enterprise and how new value and productivity would come from flow based collaboration apps.

I believe the enterprise is:

  • Being redefined around people – not tasks or processes
  • Improving productivity by unlocking people's conversations and relationships – not focusing on transactions
  • Delivering new value through the flow of my many, loosely coupled interactions of cooperation – not tightly coupled, structured constraints of collaboration.

I found alignment and agreement with these points when reading JP Rangaswami's insightful summary of how workflows of the past are different from collaboration flows of today.


JP writes:

"Workflows, like trains, worked in well-defined, closed systems.

Collaboration flows, on the other hand, are like rivers and oceans.

As the Cluetrain guys said, markets are conversations. The oceans and rivers of collaboration flows include all these conversations. The conversations themselves are manifestations of relationships, some bilateral, some multilateral. Sometimes they lead to transactions, surfaced by the capability as seen in the context.

What are these conversations? There’s nothing special about them. Here’s a loose classification of the types of conversations one would see in the workplace:

  • Questions needing answers (Hey, how do I do this? Here’s how. Where can I find this? Here it is. Who really knows this? Here’s who)
  • Sharing of experiences (I just installed this app, and it was *useless*. Here’s why. I just read this book and it was *fantastic. Here’s why)
  • Feedback (I really found your answer helpful. I couldn’t have done this without you.)
  • Social filtering (I rate this answer more than the others. I think you should see this so I will +1 it or Like it or RT it.)
  • Status reporting (I’m here doing this, I’m there doing that)
  • Alerts potentially needing action (If THIS then THAT, coming from a litany of sources)

…and a little later…

These conversations have been going on for aeons. But there’s one major difference. And that is this: the conversations are recorded. Persisted. Archived. So they’re auditable. Searchable. Findable. Besides this, there are other significant differences:

  • The conversations are made visible immediately , in real-time
  • They come wrapped in context, auto date and time stamped, author identified, location mapped, topic tagged
  • The context can be enriched by other participants
  • They’re channel- and device-independent; conversations can start in one medium, move to another. They can start on blogs, move to twitter, move to synchronous sound.
  • They’re time- and space-shiftable. Synchronous and asynchronous. Mobile in design.
  • They work on “publish-subscribe” networked models rather than broadcast and hierarch

I'm also reminded of this comparison of Collaboration vs. Cooperation by @shiftctrlesc and a number of posts by Stowe Boyd about cooperation, flows and the future of work.

As a result of the above, while JP makes a distinction between workflows and collaboration flows, I believe we should make the same type of distinction between collaboration flows and cooperation flows.

For me, the enterprise is being rebuilt around people, conversations and relationships powered by many, many loosely coupled interactions and cooperation flows.

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