Collaboration in the Workplace

battlefield2Business Week has an article about collaboration in the workplace, which focuses mostly on wikis.  The article begins with an anecdote about the founder of Geek Squad wondering how a member of his staff stayed in touch with employees in Anchorage.

Prodded for details, he sheepishly told Stevens that they all play Battlefield 2 online. ‘With each server, you can have 128 people simultaneously fighting each other in a virtual environment,’ said the director. ‘We wear headsets and use Ventrilo software so that we can talk over the Internet while we are running around fighting.’

Stephens, who now joins in himself from time to time, says: ‘The agents taunt each other, saying, “Hey, I see you behind the wall.” But then, while we’re running along, rifles in our hands, one of the agents behind me will be like, “Yeah, we just hit our revenue to budget,” and somebody else will be like, “Hey, how do you reset the password on a Linksys router?””

 Is this great or what?  We have to remember, this is the Geek Squad, but still…  This immediately makes me think of “The Office” episode in which the Connecticut office of Dunder Mifflin plays a computer game (it’s a FPS – Call of Duty, maybe?).  It didn’t convey quite the same feeling of collaboration, did it?  Even if there was no communication happening during the Geek Squad game however, just playing together has to make far flung colleagues feel like they know each other.

 Much of the rest of the article talks about the use of wikis in the workplace and how natural it is for younger workers and how unnatural it is for those who are older.  These are old themes, but worth exploring again every once in a while, if only to confirm that social software like wikis continue to add value to businesses.

Xerox is another company using wikis:

Typically, high-level strategy documents are formulated by a handful of people atop the corporate hierarchy. At Xerox, Chief Technology Officer Sophie VanDebroek turned the process inside out by setting up a wiki that would allow researchers in the R&D group to define collaboratively the company’s technology strategy.

If you’re still afraid of social software – Instant Messenger, wikis, streaming media, blogs, file sharing, and online multiplayer games – you’re now losing a competitive advantage, but soon you’ll be ignoring a basic requirement of the game.

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