words "do what is great" on computer screen
Yogi Berra was a great catcher, a great coach and ... a great philosopher of the digital workplace? PHOTO: Martin Shreder

The late Yankee Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra is regarded as one of the greatest catchers in the history of baseball, as well as one of the greatest coaches. 

But Berra is perhaps even better known for his pithy, seemingly logic-defying statements. Some of these so-called “Yogi-isms,” such as “It ain’t over till it’s over,” are so interwoven into the vernacular, most of us barely consider the wisdom contained within.

Consider this gem: “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” 

Now think about that statement in the context of your workplace. See what I mean?

All Talk, No Conversations

A recent survey by McKinsey Global Institute found 93 percent of leaders currently “use at least one social technology” in their organizations, citing tools that “enable collaboration among employees” among the most valuable. Yet only 14 percent of C-suite executives are “satisfied with their organization’s current ability to communicate and collaborate,” according to a new Deloitte survey

A prime complaint is that, while there may be a lot of communication and document sharing going on in today’s digital workplace, too often there’s not much real decision making happening in those spaces. 

So, why is there such a wide chasm between the types of tools being utilized and the desired results being achieved? As Yogi would say, everybody’s talking, but there aren’t any (productive) conversations going on.

More Addictive, Less Productive

Messaging apps are the latest in a long line of enterprise collaboration solutions that promise to make employees more productive. 

Designed to replace inefficient email threads with real-time communication, these tools (with all the bells and whistles of sleek consumer apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) have certainly gotten people talking — but are they working? 

“It’s definitely possible to get work done on Slack; it’s also possible to make yourself feel like you’re working without actually accomplishing anything,” wrote Mollie Fischer in a recent New York Magazine piece. Perhaps work really does happen somewhere in the random chatter, office rants and emojis, but some organizations are finding chat apps to be all talk and almost no action.

Document Sharing: Where Has All the Collaboration Gone?

Document sharing is one of the other major ways enterprise companies try to encourage employees to work together. 

There’s nothing wrong with that approach, per se — document creation sure seems like a step in the right direction compared to endless threads of hilarious memes and cat gifs. But here, companies come up against the opposite problem: too little talk and even fewer conversations. 

What many companies are finding is the solutions they're providing employees in this area are going under-utilized or flat out ignored, as people pick and choose solutions to accomplish tasks that suit their needs. This typically results in fragmented data, siloed content and a distinct lack of actual collaboration.

Where Decisions Get Made

As a leader, you may feel as if you’re swimming in a sea of "must-have” tools that drown out important conversations or condemn information to the dark depths of overlapping stack solutions. 

While many collaboration apps talk a good game, not all approaches deliver on their promises. A collaboration hub, however, strikes a balance between conversation and document sharing. It helps people locate the all-important content and experts they need to move forward on a project, long before they throw up their hands in the frustration of sifting through silos of information buried in disparate tools. A collaboration hub also:

  • Provides enterprise search that aggregates data across systems, analyzes people’s behavior patterns and then ranks results based on the relative strength of their interactions across the workgraph. Modern knowledge workers spend a jaw-dropping two hours every day just looking for information, according to McKinsey. Imagine the productivity gains from eliminating that time sink alone
  • Offers advanced analytics and reporting so you can gain insights about the health of your digital workplace. In the spirit of Yogi Berra, if you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what’s going on. Without effective monitoring and measurement, you won’t have visibility into whether users are engaging in healthy and productive ways. When you have these insights, you can make any necessary adjustments to foster a thriving, aligned and engaged digital workplace and company culture
  • Captures and makes valuable corporate memory “visible, searchable and memorable,” even when employees retire or change jobs. Collaboration solutions have been shown to supercharge employee “metaknowledge” — who knows what and who knows whom — within an organization. 

Most leaders would agree we need to talk less about getting work done and do more work instead. We need to invest in solutions that offer more than promises of increased productivity and decision making. We need tools that truly achieve those goals and more. 

If you're evaluating collaboration solutions, and keep coming up with options that feel like they're all about talk and not action, it may be a good time to heed Yogi Berra’s advice once more: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”