Collaboration Overload

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The rise of the mobile, social web is wonderful. More than that, it is providing a foundational base for an evolution in civilization. While the long-run potential of that is great, there are a lot of transitional tremors along the way. Those tremors are shaking nations, industries, and even our lives. On the personal level, I’m calling that tremor collaboration overload.

Tools like Google Docs, Basecamp, Twitter, and my new fav – Talker, are a response to the reality that an increasing number of our collaborations are outside the conventional boundaries of geography or firewall. Blurring these boundaries makes it easier for more collaborations to happen across another set of boundaries: work, life, community etc.  Finally, as applications get easier to make, there are shiny new solutions to the smallest of problems every day, and yes if they are good either I try them out or my collaborators ask me to for this next great collaboration. Either way, the result is the same. A flood of notifications and destinations constantly calling on my attention, and all of them, arguably related to something I’ve signed up to help make happen. They are not just bits of information I can ignore. They are things that relate to what matters, to me… if I could just remember what that was.

The primary problem here for me is that these calls for attention are disconnected from the reason I used the tool in that instance. Why is this google doc important? Why should I care about this project? How does it relate to what want to make happen? Only once I remember the purpose can I meaningfully prioritize where my attention is best spent… not just from a rational efficiency point, but more importantly, from a life fulfilment point.

And that seems to be the root of how to address collaboration overload. It’s not just a matter of efficiency and analytic relevance. It’s a matter of reconnecting to meaning. To purpose and passion. And so, as I welcome the next best tool to help me and my collaborators make progress, I also now know to look at how they keep focused on what matters to me. Now that sounds productive.