Connecting a Thousand Minds – collaboration tools
Fifty years ago in 1968, prototypes of “futuristic” computer tools were demonstrated by a Stanford University innovator named Doug Engelbert. A tech visionary, Engelbert demonstrated a mouse, a graphical user interface, video conferencing, and joint editing of documents by people in different locations.*
In 2018, we employ sophisticated versions of those tools daily, with hundreds of creative variations in the form of apps and specialized software. Dovetailing with the internet they speedily continue to evolve, transforming the way we work. In terms of international business, these tools have enabled enterprises of any size to enter the global arena, a type of expansion that used to be reserved for large companies with massive resources. Today cloud-based communication and organizational tools make language barriers and time zones the only real obstacles, and those are negotiable.
Long-established static hierarchical company structures are also in flux, re-configured by tools that promote instant correspondence about ideas among co-workers who can brainstorm throughout every day rather than being forced to wait for physical business meetings led by those higher up on the ladder. This creates a more exciting work environment, and it also means that the gathering of ideas from all departments in a company, and even customers around the world, is a constant, natural process.
“I don’t care what business you are in, your business model is under threat from a smarter, nimbler competitor with a new idea of a better use of technology,” says David Terrar of the social business consultancy Agile Elephant. “If you don’t want to end up like a Kodak, a Blockbuster, or your local taxi firm you need to be harnessing the collective know-how and the potential returns from the great ideas of all of your people.”**
Additionally, integrating translation into every part of your communication network may be more critical than you think, and not merely an asset: it may be the key to staying afloat in a competitive global environment defined by change. For instance, using crowd-sourcing tools to gather user-generated content from all of your markets, including foreign ones, will be useful for your market analytics and invaluable to advertising. Consumers spot authenticity, and they’ll often trust the words of other customers (easy to find online, whether you put them there or not) before they buy into anything else. Imagine the advantage of possessing such material for overseas markets.
Even the world of American spies has opened to a collaborative app. Desire to streamline operations and reduce the amount of time it takes to consume information has led to a sharing tool called Tearline. The unclassified portions of important documents (not including the classified material) are available to Tearline users, eliminating the need for intelligence agents to be on-site with documents in their hands in order to read every word they are required to ingest as background to the classified passages. This makes for happier spies with more connection to their home lives.***
Saving time, organizing tasks and documents, facilitating conversation among co-workers, creating transparency, reducing the need for location coordination … collaborative tools are designed to improve operations, increase productivity, and reduce operational costs. The information they are capable of gathering and organizing from all sources, can help you figure out who your most important customers are and how to reach them. There is an intimacy created from the immediacy and depth that collaborative tools promote that the contemporary customer is learning to expect.
*Financial Times, May 2017 – How communication tools change the way we work together, by Richard Waters
**cio.com, June 2015 – How Collaboration Tools Can Turn Your Business Into a Social Enterprise, by Paul Trotter
ClickZ, November 2017 – Why have collaboration tools become so popular? by Teresa Litza
ClickZ, July 2015 – Four ways to improve audience insights through collaboration, by Stephanie Miller
ClickZ, October 2016 – How the rise of user-generated content changes marketing, by Tereza Litsa
***Wired, February 2018 – American Spies Now Have Their Very Own iPhone App, by Emily Dreyfus
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