(CMSWire @Lunch is our new midday pot-stirrer, designed to get you to think and comment. In the premiere feature, we ask whether the objective of today's collaboration technology is to discover what its objective is. What do you think? We invite you to take a few minutes from your lunch break to read — and weigh in.)

“Meetings are by definition,” wrote Peter Drucker in 1967, “a concession to deficient organization.  For one either meets or one works.”

So what is this “collaboration” business all about, and why are we anxiously working to automate it?  If the electronic form of “collaboration” is simply an app wrapped around the process of meeting, then theoretically, every minute we collaborate is one fewer minute being productive.

Unless, of course, Drucker was wrong.  Or, alternately, electrons changed the world so much in 49 years that electronic communication can broaden our consciousness today in a way they couldn’t when there were only three commercial TV networks in America.

What justifies the existence of the online, collaborative meeting today that couldn’t have justified back when we sent people to the moon?  Here are three recently posed possibilities:

Excuse No. 1:  Being online makes it feasible for us to meet about nothing. Quite substantively, nothing at all. Last week, the senior director of product for Clarizen, Angela Bunner, told our Dom Nicastro that, with the right frame of mind, folks who get together for meetings can spontaneously contribute reasons for their being there.

Excuse No. 2:  Because you’re online, you have no choice now. Wrote contributor Andrew Pope last week, “The modern complex business environment demands collaboration as the new norm.  We are continually responding, having to try new things.” Thus, the benefit of collaboration is that it compels organizations to come up with a goal for collaboration itself, and that goal will eventually be discovered to have value.

Learning Opportunities

Excuse No. 3:  Once you’ve resolved the collaboration technology morass, you can solve just about anything. That’s the implication behind this piece from Jason Morio last week on Project Design & Development. Morio writes, “The better you are at creating products customers want, the more complicated your process can become...  Using a common set of collaboration tools can help simplify the product design and development process.”

Okay, so I’m in a grumpy mood. Maybe I’ve sat through too many meetings, you might say.

But if we believe we’re embracing Drucker and the collaboration ethic at the same time, we need to recognize we’re talking out of two sides of ourselves, and at least one of them isn’t very rosy.  Part of us would appear to be saying, if we just act like we’re engaged and participate in this collaboration thing long enough, eventually we’ll reach the point of nirvana where it will all justify itself.

So @Lunch today, let’s hear what you think. Is there a real point to collaboration, or was Drucker right after all? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.

Title image “Leipsiz-Dresden Railway Board Meeting 1852” in the public domain

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