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The Collaborator's Dilemma

In businesses and classrooms around the world, technology “is treated as a matter of interest only in certain particular organizational circumstances”[i]. Yet this technology brings the possibility of new tools to the workplace that have the potential to truly disrupt how work gets done. The direct effect of this disruption is on a company’s ability to innovate. New collaboration tools have the potential to revolutionize workplace culture and the revolution couldn’t come at a better time. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce. Generation Xers and Millennials are filling the void and bringing with them new perspectives on what work and the workplace look like. A stagnant global economy is driving morale to all time lows. 67% of IT managers report their enterprise technology is actually dulling their organization[ii].

IBM's 5150 Personal Computer

The human factor of technology adoption—the ability of people to seize new technology and use it for something other than making existing business practices look more glitzy—is being influenced by Draconian IT policies that no longer make sense. IT departments, reduced to “that class of interoffice Brahmins that decides, ridiculously and capriciously, how people should work”[iii], are robbing people of the intrinsic motivators that keep them creative, engaged, and happy. “When people have high demands and low control, their life is both hectic and miserable. There is nothing to figure out. They are trapped in a system that piles on the demands but denies them the control to meet those demands"[iv].

Thirty years after the first IBM-compatible personal computer entered the office, technology is changing the nature of collaboration. Companies must adapt their IT policies to accommodate this new culture of technology or risk their competitive advantage. IT resources within firms need to break free of mundane process improvement efforts and enable a fundamental transformation of how work is done. They must focus on enabling, not preventing, collaboration. In a results oriented, information-centric economy, attendance is optional; but innovation and creativity are critical.


[i] Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial Practices: Exploring Technology at Work. Organization Studies , 1435-1448.

[ii] Bonasia, J. (2010, June 10). Business 'Facebooks' Will Boost Innovation. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from Investors.com: http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=536945&p=2

[iii] Manjoo, F. (2009, August 25). Unchain the Office Computers! Why corporate IT should let us browse any way we want. Retrieved August 13, 2011, from Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2226279/  

[iv] Ressler, C., & Thompson, J. (2008). Why Work Sucks. New York: Penguin Group.

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