Cisco Blogs

Do I Need New Tools to Collaborate?

October 28, 2011 - 2 Comments

Technology adoption comes in many flavors, speeds, and styles. And when it comes to new tools that make things we’ve always done better, many of us are often skeptical. But eventually, most of us get over that and the new technology takes hold. Otherwise, we’d still be chopping trees with axes instead of chainsaws, heating our coffee over an open flame, and wouldn’t even know what a Venti Half-Caf Skinny Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte was. (I’m not certain I do to this day…)

So when I tell you that there are all of these amazing tools and applications that improve and simplify collaboration within your organization, you may tell me that you can walk down the hall to talk to George as easily as you can IM him. Who needs collaboration products anyway? But what if George needs to bring Fred into the conversation and Fred is in another building – in another state – and all three of us need to look at this presentation together. Right now. Oh, and Fred’s kid cut his hair with kindergarten scissors when he fell asleep watching the World Series and we really need to see the results of that on live video…

Well, when I put it in those terms, how can you resist? I came across a great graphic the other day showing personals of The 9 Types of Collaborators. My first response was to identify who in my organization fit the profiles of the different types, but my new group is all about collaboration, so I ventured off track a bit and thought about technology adoption in general.

Me First, Me First! Some of us like to be the first in line because then we get to be the coolest kids on the block. We’re willing to put up with some speed-bumps as the technology gets sorted out because we want to be ahead. Or we’re just kinda geeky and want to figure out the new stuff because it’s new. Sometimes it’s great to be first. Sometimes it’s a little better to wait to see how things pan out and whether that newest, greatest, shiniest thing really has staying power. (Can you say Betamax?)

You Go First, I’ll Watch Some of us like to hang back a bit. We’re not going to be the first off the high dive, but if the Me First Guy survives unscathed, we might be third or fourth in line. We’re interested in the new stuff, but we’d rather watch the growing pains than feel them. And if there are pros and cons to be figured out, someone else can do it and we can make our decisions based upon them. (If you’re in this camp, check out some of the great case studies from the cool kids on the block.)

You Do It for Me Some of us want to look like we’re using all the neatest stuff, but don’t actually want to figure it out and do it. So we get the technology and have someone else set it up for us, maybe even use it. If you call my dad’s mobile phone and get his voice mail, you’ll hear my voice. I once worked at a Unix publication with a computer-phobic editor who preferred “sneakernet collaboration”: He had someone print out all articles so he could edit by hand, then passed them back to a junior editor to enter the corrections for him. Strangely, or not, the same guy later became a contributing editor for Wired.

I’m Comfortable Some of us are either in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp or the “it took me so long to figure out this thing that I’m not going to go figure out something newer.” Is this new technology actually better, or is it technology for technology’s sake? I worked on a team where there was a lot of because we can rationalization. My answer was, “Well, I can walk backwards. Does that mean I should walk backward down the halls all day because I can?” Granted, not everyone was amused by my logic, but it got people to step back and focus the actual goal. And of course, this logic was delivered via web conferencing!

I Like the Classics Some us firmly believe that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” This is indeed true, but old school isn’t always better school. I appreciate that my 1966 Detroit Steel Ford doesn’t dent at the slightest breeze, but my 2006 Hybrid requires far fewer trips to the gas station. While there’s art to scribing on paper via candlelight with inkwell and quill, the spell check is a lot better in Word. And, well, you’d never get to read this if I wasn’t posting to a blog…

For me, it all depends on the technology and how it applies to my life when I’m considering when and how to integrate it into my existence. But if it makes my job easier, I’m usually out front. Because if my job is easier, I enjoy it more and can be more productive and creative. Oh yes, and I can have more time to play! Two points for technology, online tools, and all the things that make it easier for me to reach out and work with the people I need to, wherever they are.

Oh, and you just gotta see Fred’s hair…

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  1. Many of the posts on this blog are very high-level, and somewhat theoretical. I am looking for some very practical information about transitioning from traditional in-person meetings to multi-site collaborative meetings. I use web sharing on a daily basis. Whether the technology is the Cisco Movi client, WebEx, Microsoft Lync, or even legacy tools such as Netmeeting, most of these tools use the PC as the center of the “conversation”. I am looking for a better way of translating the old-school in-room white board or flip chart brainstorming mechanism into a distributed environment. I understand that many of the tool sets that I identified above have “white board” features where a PC user could scribble with his/her mouse and have that scribbling seen on the other end. For that matter, I can scribble in MSPaint, Visio, PowerPoint, etc, and simply share my desktop.

    The challenge that I’m facing is the mechanical user interface, and the affect that has on the in-room portion of the meeting.

    Are there hardware solutions other than iPads, Smartboards, or other Mimio-like solutions that make sharing hand-written notes practical? In today’s economy, budgets are tight, and getting funding for even a $5,000 Smartboard is unrealistic. Conventional web cams don’t provide sufficient resolution to allow remote sites to clearly read what’s written on a physical white board in one location, nor enables remote users to scribble on the same drawing.

    This is the aspect of “collaboration” that appears to be missing in many of these conversations. Not all of our meetings can (or should) be well scripted Power Point presentations.

    Thank you for any insight (and specific hardware recommendations) that you may be able to provide.

  2. Usually I don’t learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.