Is Collaboration Bad for Your Company?

I read an interesting article in the  Harvard Business Review (April 2009) titled “when internal collaboration is bad for your company” by Morten T. Hansen.  HBR article

Here are some of the key ideas from the article:

Conventional wisdom rests on the false assumption that the more employees collaborate, the better off the company will be.  Collaboration can just as easily undermine individual and business performance.  The question is not “how can we get people to collaborate more?” but “when will collaboration create or destroy value?”  To collaborate well is to know when not to do it.

Look before you leap.  Do not promote collaboration for collaboration sake  If so, you may be putting your company at risk.  Collaboration has potential to deliver tremendous benefits (such as innovative offerings and new sales).  But it can also backfire.  The Harvard Business Review article will help you to distinguish good collaboration from bad.

Three kinds of collaboration are especially valuable in a recession:  Cross-selling, best-practice transfer, and cross-unit product innovation.  Such collaboration will help you to generate profits by exploiting existing assets and capabilities – and to do more with what you already have.

After reading the article I started wondering about the implications on social or networked learning where collaboration is key.

We should not promote social learning for social learning sake.  We need to apply some design principles and discipline when deciding when social learning creates or destroys value.  The idea is not to cultivate more social learning.  Rather, it’s to cultivate the right social learning so that we can achieve the great things not possible when we have only formal learning opportunities.


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