Building and other textures…

26Apr08

I’ve been considering some of the various components that contribute to collaborative work. In one way or another we all work in a collaborative environment – some or more obvious. Even if your job requires wearing an intercom headset and hovering over a deep fat fryer (hairnets optional) – yeah, I’ve been there, too. But what does it really mean to work collaboratively, and does it matter?

SYNERGY

We’ve all heard the word, maybe even fear the word. About fifteen to twenty years ago, synergy was the it word of the business world. Everything was a flurry of synergies and leveraging the capitalizations of latent synergies (my attempt to introduce the business world to Freud, but somehow I think they’ve met before). “We could do this”or”the successful results of this or that due to”…you guessed it: synergy. But what the hell is this noun that seems to have single-handedly transformed the modern business world?

I was more familiar with the medical-pharmacological definition of synergy before first seeing this on an appraisal report. But, OK, two things working together to make something bigger. Sounds great, and it sounds familiar. We used to call this teamwork (and probably something before that).

TEAMWORK = SYNERGY

I probably won’t get back to keeping these formulae straight, but this also sounds vaguely familiar. Didn’t I blog recently on some repurposing?

Figure 1, The other three Rs

I include this recycling paradigm because it struck me much in the same way as repurposing content that IDEAS or buzzwords are really just content or knowledge objects (things) themselves. I suppose the major criticisms on this paradigm might be, “how can you reduce ideas?” Valid question. This goes back to something else I have been working on and that is understanding the starting points for projects – although not excluding the economic or other incentives, how do I start XYZ?

Well, to answer this I turned to some friends in the engineering world (the builders and shakers). As a very logical and systematic discipline, I hoped I would be able to find something in their kit or bag of tricks to help me understand a project from start to finish. By the way, this is a conversation I began several months ago…and we’re still only on the prep stuff – not sure what I was thinking but it has been interesting and VERY helpful (especially the cross-disciplinary perspective)!

As my engineer friends remind me, it is from the point of a project idea forward that synergy (good and bad) kicks in. Most engineers (or the ones I talk to) don’t use this S word a lot, although as a rule and on site there are other S words that do color their world! What does come up (more so in the past five years) is project management – the idea and practice certainly goes back further. What project management does for engineers (and the rest of us) is it makes a process understandable and highlights the collaborative nature of the project. Not that the collaboration wasn’t there before PM kicked in, but something in the last twenty years has hyperemphasized this fact.

“I’ll take synergy for $100, Alex.”

But it’s not the word. Synergy as a buzzword is long gone. Ah, but the idea is still there…and maybe that is the texture to building.

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