I have been thinking about how a collaboration implementation plan aligns with user participation and how to link the two together to create a simple five step plan.

Participation Inequality

We know that in social networks, participation is not equal.   Jakob Neilsen first described Participation Inequality back in 2006, noting that most of the content contributed originated from a small majority of active users (1-10%).

Participation Inequality

Participation Inequality

Ross Mayfield describes the The Power law of Participation where users tend to start at the long tail and move their way up to being contributors and leaders.  He also composed the below graphic illustrating how increasing levels of effort can transforms participation from collective intelligence to collaborative intelligence.

Taking the Participation Inequality and the user path taken to contribution, I have aligned these to a simple 5 step implementation plan.

The Five Step Plan

The five step plan I have outlined allows us to focus our efforts and resources in the right places along the journey to collaborative intelligence.

1. Consumption:  Lead with content

  • Start with existing content

Knowing that a majority of your network will initially consume content, helps us to focus first on ensuring that there is relevant timely content there. 

Start with exisitng “publishers”/contributors within your organisation, leveraging content you already have and aggregating it with a social overlay.  Exisiting contributors gain vital feedback on their content and in addition are able to reach a wider audience as people being to self-subscribe to content that is relevant to them.

2. Conversation: Enable Dialogue

  • Build your curator network to share best practices on creating “social content”
  • Remember to recognise contributors

Through your collaboration platform, content consumers are now enabled to “give back”.  Content creators are able to get instant and public feedback on what they produce and start to adapt for their audience. They will adapt their content to be more “social”.  Asking questions to encourage commentary, expressing opinions and curating content that is more “conversational”.

As the content grows and relationships are formed with consumers, more of the consumers will start to want to express themselves as contributors.

The motivation of most contributors is the attention and appreciation of the content consumers.  Provide recognition to contributors to encourage them to continue and for others to emulate. Now is a good time to build a curator network.  Contributors can share best practices on creating content that encourages dialogue and conversation.

3. Connections: Create Relationships

  • Build an advocacy network

Collaboration platforms make it easier for people to find content, people and places that are relevant to them.  Encourage tagging, recommendations and shares to increase connections and discovery. 

As the culture evolves, and connections increase, discovery and recommendations based on popularity/trending and user networks  become more sophisticated and rich. Interconnecting content and people to enable more serendipitious collaboration.

4. Co-operation: Build Communities

  • Build Communities of Practice and Communities of Interest
  • Build a Community Leaders Network

As user engagement increases and they become further engaged, people will want to become more involved.  Connecting with groups and communities that they identify with.  New communities will form and merge. 

Start with existing communities/groups, such as communities of practices or affinity networks and encourage social groups and collective action groups to help build the community movement. 

Building your community leader network will be vital to the success of your communities.  The community managers and leaders will actively connect people to content and encourage participation and a sense of belonging.

Discouraging the recreation of the organisation structure at this stage, and focusing instead on groups and networks that do not change frequently will enable the collaborative culture to take root.  Instead encourge cross silo and/or cross regional, functional or role based networks.  Focus on things that remain constant in re-organisations.

5. Collaboration: Change the Culture

  • Change current processes and workflow

This is when the culture of the organisation starts to change, it becomes more open and transparent and people are able to work across silos and regions.

Exisiting workflows and processes will change.  They will be able to look at changing the way they perform meetings, or how they ask questions and find expertise.  This is the stage where users are able to create groups and work collaboratively together on collective actions and goals. 

More and more people will become contributors and start “working out loud” allowing for the transistion from collective intelligence to collaborative intelligence.