Guest Post by Chad O”Connor, Communication Consultant & Adjunct Professor
An organizational communication student of mine recently tipped me off to a blog post from Terri Griffin at Santa Clara University about changing the way we think about supporting group work from a technology standpoint. It was a short but thoughtful piece that commented on the rapidly shifting availability of tech tools for improving collaboration. Clearly nonprofits benefit from this current environment of cheaper bandwidth and a plethora of competitive and feature-packed technologies [this of course raises a new set of problems in terms of your staff”s comfort with using such technology and truly showing how this technology helps make their work better rather than making it more burdensome]. Griffin insists that those of us who offer communication improvement advice (consultants, IT people, and the lot) need to “shift to helping teams make decisions about what technology tools and organizational practices to adopt.”
For instance, your small team of 4 people made a decision to work on docs collaboratively using Google Docs. In many cases this decision has been made out of practical necessities (no finances to get everyone copies of MS Office; virtual office setup) as an ad hoc solution. Your group likely didn”t decide to take hours out to sit down, read up on options, and decide which one would be best. It likely came down to someone having a Google Account already, having played around with Google Docs on their own, and suggesting it to other members of the team [even better if there”s a couple of people who”ve had the same experience as it instantly confirms and legitimizes the suggestion]. In the case of this
example, the decision here isn”t necessarily wrong, but it”s not done in an optimal fashion. What if there are other tools out there that could do the job better for this team? Does the team know how to think about what they need, research options, and decide fairly quickly so as not to waste time/money/resources in some sort of trivial decision paralysis? If we can train people to systematically think about what they need to work better and more collaboratively, then that in itself can create a meta-collaborative end [collaborating better about collaboration] and should create both a better process and better chance for a good outcome.
I”d love to hear how you pull groups together and come up with working solutions that balance interpersonal communication and collaborative technology, and if you ever stop to think about the process of how you do it!
Chad O’Connor has taught communication at Northeastern University and Emerson College in Boston, serves as a connector forBoston World Partnerships, and works with various individuals, companies and nonprofits as a communication consultant on issues such as public speaking, message strategy, and improving organizational communication. Chad can be contacted at his gmail account, email@example.com ,and found on Twitter @chadoconnor.