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When Oscar Berg conceived the idea of a "collaboration pyramid," he did exactly what you would expect a social business expert to do. He shared the basic concept for the pyramid on his blog — so he could refine and improve it through input and feedback from his readers.

That's the value of collaboration, he explained. By sharing information and ideas, good ideas can become even better. 

Berg is a self-described digital strategist with a passion for simplicity and outside-in thinking … a man who devotes considerable time to envisioning the future of knowledge work.

More concretely, he is an experienced management consultant, author, speaker and CMSWire contributor based in Greater Malmö, the commercial center of southern Sweden.

He is passionate about helping customers become more successful by improving communication, sharing and collaboration — and values happiness above success. Happiness, he maintains, "comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others."

The key, he explained, is sharing knowledge. And that is exactly what he plans to do during a CMSWire webinar next Wednesday, June 4 (see webinar details here).

Mark Your Calendars

As many CMSWire readers know, investing in modern social business platforms is only a small part of the journey towards becoming a collaborative enterprise. During his one-hour webinar, Berg will explain his collaboration pyramid and explore practical elements of organizational change that can either block or enable the cultural shifts associated with real social business operations.

This event will offer steps for transforming your organization's communication culture, three ways to improve the effectiveness of employee collaboration initiatives and five principles for a successful social platform design.

"If someone needs a tool or a model to help them decide what to do or wants a greater understanding of why they should do certain things to encourage natural collaboration, then he should listen to the webinar," Berg said. 

The webinar will include a discussion of why collaboration happens and what kinds of tools can encourage it in an online environment. It will also dispel common misconceptions, including the Myth of the Perfect Collaboration Tool.

"There's no silver bullet. There's no collaboration tool that's perfect in every situation. Organizations have to be prepared to adapt tools to reflect their needs, their corporate culture and their overall readiness to collaborate," he said.

"Too often we blame the tools. But the problem is more often the implementation."

Of Dwarfs and Giants

Berg eloquently made the case for collaboration in a recent blog post that referenced the metaphor of dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants  — namely, that each new discovery builds on previous discoveries.

In the context of enterprises and collaboration, one can say that each person who creates value builds on the value created by other people. Each individual and team is a dwarf, and the giants whose shoulders they stand upon is the workforce as collective, past and present. The stronger the workforce operates as a collective and the better it keeps any past contributions alive, the taller and stronger are the giants, and the more value an individual and team can create."

Defining Collaboration

In an interview with CMSWire, Berg explained that the traditional definition of collaboration is a group of people working together, coordinating their action to achieve a common goal. "What we usually think about when we talk about collaboration is a team of say 10 to 15 people or less who work together," he said.

But you can also see collaboration in a larger context. In fact, every organization or enterprise is a big collaboration effort, with a lot of special groups or departments working together to achieve goals.  

The problem, he explained, is "that kind of collaboration only works well in static environments where you can institute processes and automate routines. In more dynamic and unpredictable environments, where the work is less routine and more knowledge-based, collaboration can be a problem." 

There's more of this non-routine knowledge work today than ever before, especially in countries like the US which often outsources the more routine tasks.

"The companies that are leading the way and are most profitable are the ones that are able to create value through innovation and collaboration. The challenge really is getting companies with thousands of employees to get those employees to step outside of their silos and collaborate."

For enterprise-wide collaboration to happen, Berg said community building and cooperation must stretch beyond any barriers such as organizations, time and place. Groupthink, organizational silos and structures cannot be allowed to limit the ability for one or several organizations to collaborate efficiently and effectively as enterprise, he continued. 

"This is why I developed the collaboration pyramid."

Visualizing the Problem

Berg defined The Collaboration Pyramid as "a model that is intended to show what areas need to be addressed for an organization that wishes to become more collaborative."

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The pyramid shows at a glance which activities are important and necessary for natural collaboration to happen.

The model consists of eight layers. Those eight layers can also be split into three larger layers: community building, cooperation and collaboration.

The top three layers define activities specifically associated with collaboration: form a team, coordinate and act.  The bottom layers are social characteristics — tasks related to community and cooperation. These things form a foundation for collaboration, and can eventually lead to a more social business.

"When you collaborate at a small company, team members usually sit in the same room and get to know each other. Something that may start as an informal chat near the water cooler may evolve into a collaboration effort. In a large company, that kind of interaction only happens within silos, within one location or within one group," he said.

But technology is changing the paradigm. "Physical proximity was once a determinant for collaboration. But now online tools enable us to create virtual proximity. And when you're close to people virtually, it can be as easy to have conversations with them as if you're in the same room."

Recognizing Organizational Talent

Does collaboration embrace extroverts at the exclusion of people who are more reserved? No, Berg said. In fact, introverts thrive in online environments, where they can express their ideas and opinions without the need to look at someone face to face. 

"In that respect, virtual collaboration really provides a way for organizations to tap into talents that may be hidden in face-to-face interactions," he said.

Berg has much more to say about collaboration and how organizations can use the collaboration pyramid to foster a collaborative workplace. Be sure to tune into the webinar next week to hear all his ideas, tips and strategies.

Title image by Peter Lindberg Photography.