Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | September 25, 2011 |


Communications & Collaboration--Are You Gorilla or Human?

Communications & Collaboration--Are You Gorilla or Human? Communications and collaboration is an underserved area of management that enterprise can use now. How complicated can this be?

Communications and collaboration is an underserved area of management that enterprise can use now. How complicated can this be?

My wife says, "It's a phase we have to go through." Yeah, right. When did our daughter discover boys? I'm not complaining about technology and I'm not denying the collaborative need between humans. I simply don't want boys around my daughter.

What Melanie didn't mention in her post Collaboration Makes Us Human is that humans do communicate in varied capacities with other humans. That scale can climb above or dive below simple/complex reasoning skills, visual and verbal cues and tones and reflections. How complicated can it be? Melanie's post got me thinking because chimps do understand primal visual and audible cues, as should a young man should approaching the front porch of my daughter's home seeing gorilla Dad shaking his head no way.

While I don't want my daughter holding a cell phone up near her undeveloped brain--I didn't mind the idea of an iPod Touch. Besides, if she wants an iPhone, she can ante up and pay for the subscriber costs of the data plan. I even advised her to consider that the iPod Touch may get axed and buying an iPhone may be the better thing to do; she still opted for the iPod Touch. This is a proud moment for me because my daughter worked during the summer caring for a neighbor's dog and continues to do so weekdays after school. She also opted for best price for a commodity product, meaning she walked away from Apple's Store and purchased from Amazon. After my wife and I schemed and weighed the pros/cons, we thought, okay this is a much better option than her spending money on an iPhone.

The small brown light package arrived and it was a shining moment to see my daughter so happy. "Your work has earned you this really nice...." In the past Dad was supportive in the role of tech support. Not today. After school she completed her job and jumped on the opportunity to synch her new iPod Touch with her Mac Mini. No need to get help from Dad. Of course, this is another proud yet bittersweet moment, because I'm thinking back to the days when she was 3-1/2 years old and I gave her a Mac Tangerine for Christmas. After we slowed the mouse tracking down she quickly adapted to the Mac and the ongoing supply of educational games. Here we are today and she's independent and confident with Dad on the sidelines feeling like his supportive mouse tracking days are left in the dust.

A few hours later I decided to check in with my daughter because I thought I heard her talking to someone. She seemed glowing and I thought this must be really special to have an iPod Touch. I've never held one, so she let me examine her new i-device. Safari, Mail, Weather, and FaceTime--all need WiFi access so I voluntarily keyed in the access code hinting at a chargeable monthly fee that she quickly disputed. I noticed some other apps--Skype, Games and before I could browse further, "Who is this texting you!" All those proud moments seemed to vaporize as more messages arrived. "Oh that's so and so, and this message--he’s just a pest." Music to my ears but my wife warned me later, "Don't be so gullible."

Getting back to communications and collaboration--it really is the basic stuff that we all do every day willingly or unwillingly. Our effectiveness depends upon our abilities to be good communicators, use proper tools and methods at our disposal that we are organizationally empowered to use.

The interesting twist in all this is how enterprises can effectively use communications and collaboration to improve their bottom lines, gain efficiencies, improve customer relations and retain employees.

Empowering employees is always a management concern and even with limits or controls embedded within the organization; employees always find a way around, over, under or some workaround when it means getting their jobs done.

When technology easily blends into the hands of users with little or no effort, then there’s something to be said for this kind of delivery. I've long maintained that enterprise communications is too complex and so are many of the technology solutions. As the PC disappears seemingly faster than the desktop telephone, I can't help but chuckle. What is so appealing about watching movies, reading books and documents and exercising all forms of communications on an i-device? Whatever it is, "it" needs to be replicated and this kind of mojo is what Microsoft and many other companies just don't have. Of course, I'm plugging Apple, but not without some merit.

Whether or not anyone planned using technology to "make us more human" I don’t know. What I do know is, how we use the technology can still present obstacles and land mines. IT wants to maintain the gate keeping, just like I want to maintain gorilla blockades to boys bold enough to grace my driveway with their presence. Animal instinct to protect the clan is primal, but I'd question the same of most daily business communications and collaboration.

For decades, management experts have studied, debated and focused in on Japan and now China. Their societies' communications and collaboration styles show that their cultures act less individually than ours and remain more focused on the collective or group dynamics than we do, with our focus on individualism or independence. This remains a key challenge in the American workplace. People working in the same company are often at odds and seemingly on different teams. Maybe it's human nature, but I think it has something to do with how the workplace stage is set by management to foster and nurture individual accomplishments focused on individual performance evaluations. This contributes to the competitive issues people encounter while working for the same company with common goals and objectives.


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