Collaboration Ninja 忍者

Work-in-progress: please join in and share your insights

Keep the vision simple, compelling, & focused

“Wikipedia has the mission statement ‘a comprehensive dictionary in your native language for free.’ That vision really got a lot of people excited.”- Mark Klein

A huge part of incentivising the collaborative process is in “the proposition of why you’re collaborating. You’re not going to be able to incentivise people for doing something they don’t believe in. No matter how good your interface, or your terms and conditions or how easy you make it” (Chris Thorpe). The feeling seems to be that having a vision that is too general will appeal to very few people’s passions: “the stuff that works really well on the web in particular is the real niche interest group stuff. If you take a really specific subject that pulls at someone’s heart strings, or is really important to them that’s when they’re going to get engaged and really involved. The ones that constantly fail are when people are trying to do some generic policy initiative… people really need a specific focus to be able to collaborate around.” -(Dominic Campbell)

With the possibility of misunderstanding great, you need to build a vision that is really clear (Peter Gloor). The online user-interface of your collaboration and the propositions it projects need to be as clear as possible as well, which means keeping that interface very clean and simple. Over-busy interfaces with seemingly useful techy-gimmiks can cause your proposition to be broken up and confusing.

“There’s no hard and fast rules in terms of look and feel, but there are hard and fast rules in terms of the wiring of peoples brains and how they like to interact with the world and the online world as well. Work with those rules, keep your interfaces clean and your propositions clear as possible.” – Chris Thorpe

In the end it comes to keeping things interesting and challenging within the frame of your contributor’s passions, and to accommodating their passions within your proposition.

“With all the choice we’ve got I don’t see anyone in the internet doing lots of things in a space where they’re not passionate because people can go somewhere else. It’s like in a coffee break in a workshop: if your standing there with someone who’s boring the pants off you, you make some inane excuse to be somewhere else and you walk around and you find another group of people, and join their conversation. I think the web is very much like that. It’s very self-organizing.” – Geoff Brown

Make it Tangible

Although the over arching vision for an ecosystem of collaborative innovation networks can be more general (e.g. ‘a contribution dictionary in your native language for free.’ – Wikipedia), on an individual project level, when designing a vision for your collaboration, you need to ensure that the offering is realistic and achievable (Ali Wyne), but ambitious enough to be motivating (Roland Harwood). The huge potential of the web makes it much easier to start small and scale up as required. So when backcasting from your vision of success, being realistic about what can be achieved given your baseline can stop your project fizzling out prematurely. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start off with a very small-scale version of the challenge that you want to address or perhaps just a sliver of it, and learn it inside and out. Then build your way up.” (Ali Wyne)
Use multi-media to express your vision and tell your story

When working in diverse groups, stories and multi-media tools are really important in expressing your vision because words-as-text can have different connotations for different people. In the flesh it is much easier to convey where your passions lie, and give a sense of enthusiasm and motivation. On-line its more complicated because the subtleties of communication can be lost.

For a great example of utilizing multimedia to convey your vision visit Enabled by Design to see a video of Denise the co-founder talking about why she’s involved.

“Its been really powerful in getting people engaged: that there’s real human beings behind this project and that they’re doing it for an identified need for somebody who’s running the project in the first place. That really seems to be bringing stuff to life for people, particularly in the context of the web where it could be quite alienating otherwise or lacking in the passion you would have face to face.” – Dominic Campbell

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