First, check out this Harvard Business Review article by John Seely Brown: Social Media Will Play a Crucial Role in the Reinvention of Business. Then, consider his arguments with a view to collaboration.
His basic point is that social media not only allows for, but promotes innovation by its very use. John claims that innovation, or any new idea really, comes from the outside in, because core competencies are foundational to the organization and are usually too stable to change. So his point then is that when we look for a new idea, we will have more luck if we search outside the organization.
Here’s where collaboration comes in. Social media allows for interaction between the “edges” and the internal workings of an organization, as well as between the organization and its environment. These points of contact allow for ideas to reach right into the centre of the organization and jump-start revolutionary changes. Social media increases these points of contact to the degree that newer, better ideas are constantly being shared and developed because you get more people volunteering ideas and more people vetting those ideas and therefore, more “good” ideas overall.
The informality of social media is its other huge asset. Because social media allows for such consistent interactions, pitching an idea, sharing your opinion and gathering support have been de-formalized. The consistency just makes it feel like a virtual conversation with a group of friends. Therefore, it’s much more likely that an idea makes it out of your head and into a discussion. Social media creates a perfect environment for like-minded people to meet and interact, share and develop their ideas, and find support for achieving their shared goals. Our interactions on Twitter start to sound like THE definition of collaboration.
Why should I care?
The ubiquitous nature of social media means it has stepped in as the primary opportunity for daily collaboration. Basically, if you’re not on some social media platform, you’re betting against the odds for finding collaborators. With the number of people using social media, and the nature of the beast, it presents itself as the ideal resource to meet a growing interest in, and need for, collaboration. Not only that, the way we use these social tools is a sign that our perspective on the value of collaboration has changed. Collaboration can be, and usually is, viewed as a tool to minimize a drain on resources. Instead, collaboration in social media is a resource in itself – one that allows us to move from sharing work-loads to creating shared value.