Connectivity, customization and collaborative reputation are just a few of the forces that will change the way we work in 2013.

Editor's Note: This is the final in David Coleman's three article series on Collaboration in 2013

7. Everything is Connected

Although this is apparent to me, I guess it is not to everyone. I mean this in both a philosophical sense (we are all connected to each other) and a literal sense, where nano-sensors are on pretty much everything and they are all broadcasting data at you.

Not only can this be overwhelming, but it also brings into question the idea of identity and certainly gives privacy and security officers new things to worry about. You would always know what inventory is in stock and where it is, you would know where everyone you work with is, and if given access, what they are doing.

Think of it as an activity stream with not only people but things! We see some of the early steps in this direction today with the Internet and mobile devices, but things (all sorts of things) will become more connected. Imagine a jacket that scans your body when you put it on, and can relay the data to your doctor, so if something is wrong we know about it right away, and then can use specially programmed nano-bots to correct the damage.

If you think you are overloaded with information and people today, just wait until tomorrow. A number of years ago Robin Dunbar, a sociologist, stated that the human brain can only deal with between 12 to 150 relationships at a time. Yes, I know you have 5,000 Facebook friends, but how many are actually relationships rather than acquaintances or people you just know?

Adding to this overwhelm is the fact that smart devices will be trying to get your attention in the very near future, and you can start to imagine the amount of information, relationships and connects you will be asked to process. Just as Iron Man has “Jarvism” a master program (with a voice as well as gestural interface) to help him deal with everything else, we too will need a Jarvis or maybe Siri in the near future to help us with all these connections!

8. The Networked Organization

More and more I see companies struggling to get the best talent and to keep them. There is nothing more important to a business than a great employee. But with only 3 percent of Baby Boomers left in the workforce, those just coming into the workforce have very different expectations about work.

Often they will work as an employee for a while, and then go out on their own after acquiring some experience and expertise. Because we are so connected, they soon find others like themselves and form an entity (a small business). To keep ahead of the competition they may focus on something very specific, but be the best in the world at it (creating CAD drawings and instructions for a 3D printer to print out a more efficient part). These groups tend to from around a core business like satellites (see Figure 9).


The core of the company may only be comprised of a few hundred people including management, marketing, maybe operations or R&D, but everything else can be outsourced to these satellite service entities that have long-term relationships with the core organization.

I do this today: I have an accountant, a lawyer and colleagues I can call on when I need their particular expertise. This will require better external (outside the core) collaboration software, sometimes optimized for the process the satellite organization is part of.

9. Personalization and Customization

Henry Ford was once quoted as saying “sure, you can have any color car you like… as long as it is black.” That was the industrial revolution, where everyone got the same thing and businesses were made on economies of scale.

Today just the opposite is true, no one wants to be the same, they all want to proclaim their individuality. Look at the stickers on people’s laptops or the popularity of tattoos. They all are meant to say "I want to be a bit different," "I am an individual" (and often convey some content information about them i.e. they ride a Harley Davidson).

Add this to some of the other trends discussed above and you have a world of personalization and customization. You don’t have to buy the same iPhone protective case as everyone else, you can send in a picture of your dog or kid and have it printed (3D) into a iPhone case built to your specifications, and unlike any other (see When I had a new Mini Cooper built, I was able to track its progress through the factory; you can now do the same with your iPhone case.

There is also collaboration involved in this personalization and customization. Take for example Kickstarter -- I am invested in the Waka Waka project, which is a solar powered external battery (for items like my iPhone) and light. Not only have I gotten 12 updates on how the project is going, but I have been asked as a backer to vote on different color cases, if it should come in a waterproof bag (and which one), etc. So there is a lot of collaboration going on between the backers and those doing the project, even when there are problems.

One of the other projects I am following is iExpander, which is a great idea for an iPhone case as it not only provides protection and an extra battery, but also offers an expansion slot for a memory card and a place to plug in you headphone jack (I currently have a case that seems to have forgot that feature). iExpander is running into some trouble with Apple around licensing, and there is a volatile discussion going on between the backers and the project lead about what is happening and where the project is going. Needless to say, the project was not only oversubscribed in funding, but it is also now late on delivery because of the Apple issues. 

It is not just things that will be customized; it will be interfaces and even different types of collaboration. For example many application interfaces today will let you move tiles of functionality around the page so you can optimize it for the way you work. You can customize your workspace (both real and virtual). No longer is it you can only get black, today it can be purple, and tomorrow topaz. We are beginning the age of individual manufacturing, which has broad implications for all of business as well as creating new and different channels for collaboration.

10. Collaborative Reputation

People are social creatures. How many social networks are you part of? Organizations are also (first and foremost) made of people. But organizational structures are also changing and along with them, roles and reputations.

In the networked organization I mentioned in Prediction 8, those organizations tend to be more of a meritocracy, i.e. you have to earn your role, you don’t just get it through a promotion or attrition. You also need to understand what the role means and what your responsibilities are to those you collaborate with. This means your reputation as someone good to work with, who responds quickly and thoughtfully, who listens well, is appropriate in sharing with others, etc., makes not only a good project manager but a good team leader.

There are a whole cluster of skills that go into someone who is good at collaborating. Most of them can be taught, but you first have to understand how good a collaborator you think you are and then compare that to how others see you. This requires a metric which I call “Collaborative Intelligence (CQ).”

It can be used by an individual to see where they are in relation to others (in terms of their collaboration skills). It can also be a score you (as an HR person) might want to look at before hiring a new employee or signing a long term contract with a satellite organization.

Even if you are already an employee, you can use these scores to see who you want to work with (a person or group of people) on a team or project. I wrote a little about this last year in CMSWire looking at the 10 aspects of Collaborative Intelligence.

More and more of those coming into the workforce from college are looked at not just for what they know (content), but how well they share, work and collaborate with others. This means your collaboration reputation is critical. It can help promote you and get you the team you want to work with and the project you want to work on, or it can hold you back.

Editor's Note: David is looking for an organization to work with to further develop his CQ theory. If you are interested, his contact information is below. This is the final in David's predictions series. Read predictions one and two and three through six to get the full picture.