Re: New book: Beyond Collaboration Overload, by Rob Cross #SNA-ONA-VNA #WOL #workplace #books #collaboration

Gordon Vala-Webb

@Catharine: I agree the term "collaboration" often gets applied very broadly; and that other methodologies can help reduce the organizational friction (e.g. a well-implemented 'enterprise' search engine can stop a lot of "does anyone know . . ." type of "collaboration").

@Dan: " there are no exact, precise solutions to get to a perfect collaborative balance." I would agree; and would argue that this is because "collaboration" is requires the management of two polarities: Structure and Unstructure (or / and Centralization and Decentralization). Neither is 'right' nor 'wrong' - because there is no "perfect . . . balance." You need both - to some degree; the mix of the two changes depending on the circumstances and / or outcome you are seeking. For example, broad enterprise social networking tools (e.g. Yammer, Teams) can significantly benefit from adding structure such as managed vocabularies, having a file-naming convention, and post-facto community renaming / amalgamation.

As Dr. Barry Johnson - the originator of Polarity Maps said: " The objective of the Polarity Management perspective is to get the best of both opposites while avoiding the limits of each."

I hope that is helpful.


Gordon Vala-Webb


Toronto, Ontario, Canada |

On Mon, May 31, 2021 at 10:17 AM Dan Ranta <danieleranta@...> wrote:
Catherine - I agree that Rob's work is very provocative.  I am working on a short gig with the U.N. and I posted Rob's video that Tom shared on a UN-wide KM Yammer Community.  The individual below in the screen shot (name blocked out) posed an interesting question.  I shared the post via email with Rob and he responded right away - see below.  

Catherine I agree with your's fuzzy for sure and there are no exact, precise solutions to get to a perfect collaborative balance.  I often say that work is more of an art than a science and this is definitely the case with building a collaborative culture.  I really like Rob's point below about self identifying where collaborative behavior can improve on the left side of his loop (graphic in his video) and putting this into play on the right side.  Also, he makes the point where small adjustments can potentially yield large amounts of value.  Several strategies can assist individuals, groups, organizations to understand this and move from left to right.  That's what I hear Rob talking about most.  I plan to also order his book.  Dan


On Sun, May 30, 2021 at 11:22 AM Catherine Shinners <catherineshinners@...> wrote:
Thanks for the head's up on this book.   I think this may be a follow on and expansion of Rob's thoughts in this area - he and Reb Rebele and Adam Grant first wrote on their Collaboration Overload take in a Harvard Business Review article in late 2015.   I wrote extended comments and then crafted this extended blog piece a couple of years later - I thought they threw too much into a "collaboration" bucket. 

"It seemed to me that much of the challenges and issues they called out did not have much to do with collaboration, per se, but with poor interaction and knowledge management practices, irregular or vague governance and guidance, and haphazard project and team management processes. In my work with organizations and companies, it’s often these kinds of issues that impact productive collaboration."

I am eager to see how he may have expanded his thinking since this early HBR article. 

I will say this - I spent about 10 years working on projects in large high tech companies to move their entire workforce to digital and social collaboration tools and modalities.  There were several common stumbling blocks that underpinned what leads to and what Cross calls Collaboration Overload
  • senior management did not understand the networked-based power of the tools and capabilities and overload the new technologies without pulling back on earlier ones - email and meetings being the most egregious, but also antiquated push, not pull communication and connection practice
  • senior management did not partake of the experiences themselves - so did not viscerally appreciate the impact on their workforce, nor could they lead by example (see below a link to digital leadership presentation)
But as I note in the blog, there's also search and knowledge management gaps that drive "collaboration" overload.

It's a challenge to move traditional organizational thinking into a "networked" model, but I've tried to articulate in these three categories
  • Individuals need to cultivate their "Network Agency" and understand that they are the asset - and expand their identity in a proactive way across the organization as network - they can do that by "Working Out Loud" and activate their social, knowledge and reputational capital in various ways - robust profiles, participate in forums or communities of practice, blog about their growing experience.
  • Management needs to cultivate their own digital leadership but also integrate an understanding of network social structures in the organization - communities, knowledge networks, internal crowdsourcing for business problem solving - at a class I co-taught at the Columbia INKS program, we specifically addressed the management process of setting communities in motion and integrating the results back to the organization - and I know Dan Ranta did ground-breaking work at GE in this regard.
  • Everyone has to master "future of work skills" virtual collaboration (not just the tools, but knowing how to activate and enlarge the knowledge and exchanges - tagging, for instance), rapid sense-making organizational awareness, and learning agility aided via network practices
Might seem obvious, but it was always an uphill struggle in the projects/organizations I worked with.
It looks like Cross is really integrating strong network practice into organizational design thought.   Companies have made enormous investments in the technology but have left the practice to chance.  I am going to pre-order his book.

Something's on Overload - But It's Not Collaboration.
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Daniel Ranta
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Gordon Vala-Webb
Building Smarter Organizations
How to lead your zombie organization back to life

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