Monday, April 21, 2008

Review of "Getting to 'We'", CACM April 2008

Denning and Yaholkovsky wrote a typical not-very-technical CACM article. But it has some interest:

Hierarchy of Working Together. They make these distinctions:

-- Information Sharing (blog, chat, file servers)

-- Coordination: "regulating elements and players for harmonious action" (internet protocols, auction systems)

-- Cooperation: "playing together under the same...rules (including...competition)" (wiki, multiplayer games)

-- Collaboration: "creating solutions...through...synergistic interactions" (Appreciative Inquiry, Brainstorming)

Blegh: "synergistic". Is this biology, or just vague busineeze?

In one trial, students were made to work together on a "wicked problem" involving the environment and security. Their first solution was to "delegate up" to an "infrastructure czar" with some authoritarian power. The teacher rejected this plan, and made students try again.

In the second try, they proposed a competition system, involving referenda, debates, campaigning, and voting. This too was rejected.

Finally the students "collaborated", and developed plans that accounted for concerns of several parties. Punchline: collaboration comes by failure of other plans.

Collboration sequence:

1 Declare the question or issue.

2 Connect: members get together, and explain concerns.

3 Listen to each other.

4 Develop a "we"; i.e. Take ownership of each other's concerns to find answers to all concerns.

5 Create proposals.

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