The purpose to which technology is applied drives its features and functions, and sets the limits and boundaries for what is included or excluded in product or service packaging. It follows then that it is helpful to define a purpose to which a set of technologies is applied in a single and very clear statement of such purpose.
I propose to the larger community of information sharing that there is a value to defining a class of existing or emerging technology that is or will be applied to facilitate collaboration within and across communities of interest or domains. By having articulated such a class, we can define in more detail its attributes and objectives in ways that will encourage innovation, and will allow us to re-purpose existing technology to apply it to this more specific goal (purpose).
The travails of the economy and the emergence of the networked world have made collaboration of the day, so much so that executives in either government or industry spend a considerable amount of their creative time trying to figure out how to be more effective through collaborating with their peers and even their competitors. If you want to see how far-reaching and significant this relatively new awareness is, just go to Mother Google and do a search on the phrase “Collaborate or Die.” Lest you think that this title is overly dramatic, you’ll be amazed at how many different fields now have this slogan on their front page.
The most articulate and powerful set of lessons learned as they apply to the public safety and justice field is found in a new book to be published tomorrow. Bill Bratton, former Chief of Police in Los Angeles and Commissioner of Police in New York, and now Chairman of Kroll Industries, and Zachary Tumin, a senior researcher and analyst at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he served as Executive Director, Leadership for a Networked World Program, have collaborated (yes, I intentionally used this word) on a book entitled Collaborate or Perish, which reveals the best practices that these two coherent and capable government leaders have developed to carry out this mandate.
This kind of a culture change is only sustainable if investments in the supporting infrastructure are designed to keep it alive. Training, a reward or incentive system, and supporting services are needed to make any culture change permanent. Collaboration is no different; therefore, we should look at what kinds of technology can and will support this important movement.
Social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Yahoo groups, and wikis in general can be viewed as collaborative technology, but there is still a need to move these technologies forward to better facilitate collaboration through organizing the presentation of collective intelligence. The development of Next Generation 911 (NG9-1-1) is, in a sense, collaborative technology in that it facilitates the multi-media exchange of information between citizens and public safety agencies. There is still a great need for innovation in our striving to apply “the wisdom of the crowd” to decision-making—and this is what collaboration technology should be all about. If we can better define the requirements for collaborative technology, assess the gaps in what already exists, and define the functions that future innovative offerings could provide, we will move faster toward making collaboration the rule rather than the exception.