The Collaboration Tipping Point

The Tipping Point: “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” was the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell, first published in 2000. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. The book seeks to explain and describe “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life.


So, why might we be at a tipping point to make (or not make) our work visible through collaboration tools like Teams, Yammer or OneNote? It is now perfectly acceptable behaviour to make our social and family lives blatantly visible on social media, so why not our professional lives? By doing so you will be “Working Out Loud” and generously sharing your work with a view that someone might improve it, or it might help someone with their work fast! 


We’ve come up with seven barriers to the collaboration tipping point: 

  1. In many organisations, it might never be appropriate to adopt collaboration tools due to the culture and type of work the organisation manages.
  2. Employees might be dominated by “command-and-control”-style management.
  3. Management/employees might fear not knowing the answer to an employee question on the network that might be directed at them.
  4. Management/employees might fear posting something that will make them look stupid.
  5. Management/employees might not be comfortable with social media, see it as wasting time at work and not appreciate the business value.
  6. Collaboration tools speed of response might be perceived as actually too fast by command-and-control-style management. Email slows everything down to a pace ruled by management. Decisions have always been made in weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings or committees—not crowdsourced on the fly.
  7. There might be a limited internal communication budget for employee engagement, as the marketing department probably holds the purse strings for social media engagement with paying customers. 


Are there seven ways to get over these barriers? Yes! 

  1. Might never be appropriate. Consider the new tools emerging with apps and in processes, systems and tasks might be introduced as part of tech upgrades. Take Microsoft Office 365, where employees might start using  Teams, Yammer or OneNote without realising it, embedded across a suite of tools processes.
  2. “Command and control” management. Consider retirement planning that might slowly shift to a more trusted, collaborative way of working are aligned to corporate strategies, and organisational development might appreciate collaboration can nurture the right cultural behaviours and values. Another key to success is a “business sponsor” for the network: an influential leader in the organisation who understands and actively communicates the value of working in a more collaborative way – not based in IT.
  3. Fear of not knowing the answer to an employee question. Consider again encouraging a more trusting culture, comfortable with delegating a question to a subject matter expert without offending anyone or making anyone look stupid in the process. The use of “business intelligent tagging” can quickly spotlight current, authentic conversations (e.g. tags like #strategy #customer #product #performance #innovation #volunteering). Change Champions are instrumental in this approach.
  4. Fear of posting something that will make them look stupid. Remember, we are only human and do not know all the answers. Delegating a post @another, to a subject matter expert, is again perfectly acceptable. Also, encourage “likes” on employee posts, especially from leaders, to increase engagement and offer instant recognition.
  5. Not comfortable with social media. Continually share appropriate collaboration success stories from outside and inside the company to demonstrate the business value. Benchmark competitors’ and internal functions’ digital transformation—don’t be left out in the cold. Equally, avoid procrastinating about collaborating.
  6. Speed of response is too fast. Collaboration tools helps to give organisations a competitive edge in our fast-paced world, and makes employees feel included and valued if their authentic, helpful opinions are voiced and quickly responded to in the areas of R&D, manufacturing, sales and marketing, etc. This behaviour should be encouraged as “how we do things round here.”
  7. No internal communication budget for employee engagement. Consider making this part of your employee advocacy program. Employees should be regarded as brand ambassadors externally and internally and should be included in sales and marketing campaigns with updates on your collaboration networks like Yammer or in Teams. Provide employees with “actions” for how they might promote the company externally and on which social networks. 


IT Pro Tips. Teams, Yammer and OneNote requires a substantial change management behaviour, so perhaps consider just three of the above to start with: 

  1. Find a business sponsor (an influential leader within the organisation) prepared to be visible on and advocate for the network.
  2. Align collaboration to business purposes and create groups or teams that encourage conversations focused on corporate strategies nurturing the right cultural behaviours and values. Also encourage some light-hearted social activities.
  3. Encourage Change Champions not only passionate about social networking but have a deep understanding of your business and might be regarded as “intrapreneurs”: your unexpected leaders, risk takers and natural networkers! 



Lesley Crook