The network rewards collaborators and punishes hoarders. The Web rewards those who are generous and punishes those who are mean.If the Web were a film, its plot would be much more like that of Lord of the Rings and much less like Terminator, Dirty Harry or Die Hard. It would be much more about a cooperative group of friends striving together to achieve a shared goal. It would disdain the idea of one man (or machine) saving the world against all odds.
When the lone rider travels on the Web, he quickly rides off over the horizon and into isolation. The lone, disconnected voice is rarely heard on the Web. I heard it said that blogging is the art of linking; that to blog is to share, to connect, to be generous.
Many organizations I deal with recognize at a senior management level that collaboration is a strategic imperative. "We've collaborated with outside partners for generations-but the importance of these alliances to P&G has never been greater," states A.G. Laffey, President of Procter & Gamble.
"Our vision is simple," Mr Lafley continues. "We want P&G to be known as the company that collaborates-inside and out-better than any other company in the world."
Procter & Gamble is one of the world's largest, most successful organizations. Doesn't it have enough talent in-house? In a fast-changing, complex world, you can never have enough of the right talent.
"I want us to be the absolute best at spotting, developing and leveraging relationships with best-in-class partners in every part of our business," Mr Lafley states. "In fact, I want P&G to be a magnet for the best-in-class. The company you most want to work with because you know a partnership with P&G will be more rewarding than any other option available to you."
The Web is becoming The Organization, and even the largest physical organizations are small fish in the big pond of the Web. The mighty P&G is courting us, saying that if we have a good idea, please, please consider them.
Mr Laffey stresses that he is not just talking about external collaboration. He also wants P&G to collaborate better internally. This is where the intranet can play a vital role.
Many organizations face the challenge of a silo mentality. There is lots of internal rivalry, with more loyalty to the department or division than to the organization as a whole. Even where there is strong loyalty to the larger organization, it's hard to focus on the big picture and easy to get caught up in the culture of the particular section you work for.
For the intranet to play its part in breaking down the silo mentality and instead encouraging and facilitating cross-departmental collaboration, it needs an information architecture that is commonly understood. It needs an architecture that is staff-centered, rather than organization-centered. It needs a task-based information architecture.
The first task that must be focused on is finding people. You will generally not turn to the intranet to find people who are sitting in the same office as you. Rather, you will use the intranet to find people in other departments. If you can't find the right person, how can you collaborate?
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.