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Collaboration is a Culture. Not A set of Tools.

With all the talk about the need to increase collaboration in the workplace, or acquiring the hottest tools for the Facebook generation to successfully collaboration, one CEO is taking a different approach. Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst, believes that “All that is garbage…collaboration is a culture. It’s not a set of tools.”

In a February Business Insider article Jim Whitehurst, explains that while collaboration is an important characteristic of successful companies, tools alone won’t get you there. Whitehurst believes that if collaboration isn’t already something ingrained in the corporate culture, then it doesn’t matter how many or what kind of collaboration tools you have. “You can’t buy your way to collaboration. If employees are not already working that way, tools become nothing more than a high-tech version of the never-used suggestion box.” While I do agree with Whitehurst that collaboration really depends on the individual, if you don’t give them the tools then how can you expect collaboration to occur?

With the explosion of collaboration tools in the last few years, it’s easy to view all this talk as “noise”. More and more we’re seeing a divergence; managers are either embracing these new collaborative technologies or viewing them as unnecessary. I believe the root of this problem is that most managers who view these tools as unnecessary do so because they don’t fully understand how best to integrate them into their collaborative strategy. John Titlow drives this problem home in recent ReadWrite Web article “For all of the excitement generated by the wide rand of Web-based business collaboration tools out there, you’d think most companies would be touting the revolutionary effect that these products have had. Instead, most companies are seeing very few, if any, benefits.” Much to companies despair, the lack of results isn’t because it’s a poor tool – although it is very important to try and find the right tool for the job – it’s because those who purchased the tool failed to successfully integrate into their larger collaboration initiative.

Most managers believe that if you acquire a collaboration tool, collaboration will start to happen. Unfortunately, achieving successful collaboration is a lot more difficult than that. Whitehurst is right to believe that collaboration tools cannot be the foundation of a collaborative culture, however if used correctly, these tools can serve as that last needed push helping drive your team to success.

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