Embody individual habits and collective practices for collaboration

By embodying collaboration practices in templates which can be reused, improved and shared we catayse much more powerful and continuously progressing collaboration practices

Our need for new collaboration practices and habits

To carry out effectively complex operations, we humans create habits which reduce cognitive load and enable to progress towards always more complex challenges, automating the “simpler” ones.

Current tools such as business process tools provide simple but usually very limited and rigid means for this.

To advance beyond our instinctive “here and now” to systematic collaboration, we need a discipline which does not come naturally to most of us.

Human habits are cognitively based on a tryptic of trigger, action, and reward. They come with secondary effects which may be good or bad. An important side effect in cooperation is the evolution of trust (in other collaborators and the group). Bad habits destroy trust, good ones foster it. Decreasing trust makes cooperation more uncertain / less reliable and effective as participants contribute more reluctantly to not take risks with respect to groups. Increasing trust on the contrary catalyses collaboration as it is more inclusive, allows for risk taking and hence richer speedier flows.

To make habits happen we need good practices. To develop good practices, we need to make them repetitive. To make them repetitive, they must follow process models which are adapted to the situations so that they trigger and drive the right habits.

SymFlo templates, and collaborative habits & practices

ALC proposes symFlo templates to jump forward to new collaborative habits and practices.

symFlo templates mapping the intended collaboration dynamics allow digital tools to steer symFlos and specific exchanges, thus supporting these new habits and at provide a basis for continuous learning and improvement.

Individually this increases personal productivity as the user only must deal with the specifics of a symFlo (if any).

Collective productivity also takes up as symFlo participants know what is coming up, when and how to contribute, limiting the inertia and waste of useless coordination overhead.

By creating and adapting symFlo templates we allow individuals and groups to capture and refine knowledge about how to collaborate effectively in specific groups and for given purposes.

Organisations who will systematically create models for their symFlos (e.g., what Mc Kinsey calls flow-to-work) will be able to create more inclusive and agile work cultures and give corps to shared values.

As symFlo templates will evolve through experimentation and evaluation (notably using metaSymFlos), groups will adapt their collaboration practices to their group dynamics… rather than the other way around.

Individuals and groups will thus learn to better collaborate with each other and with “intelligent agents” – creating an ecosystem of individual habits and collective practices.

Use case: Education as collaboration

Education (in the broadest sense of encompassing school, academia and work on one hand, and teaching and coaching on the other) is a form of collaboration between students and teachers to make both progress in a progressive way. It is particularly relevant for consultants and designers who have to both continuously educate themselves and educate their clients and partners to share results. To succeed we should mix two perspectives:

  • Teaching is a competence and, as any competence, based on effective individual habits (of both students and teachers) as well as collective habits (helping groups of students-teachers-tutors to adopt stable and effective ways of symlying new knowledge and skills).
  • Learning is a creative act where each student has to construct the scaffold of her,his competencies and knowledge in her,his way, in a way adapted to her.his particular strengths and weaknesses.

SymFlo templates give a (flexible) shape to these flexible practices. A typical symlying course could be as follows:

  • Send invitation to course with explanations about process and rules.
  • Get students to read required readings and to confirm that it is done.
  • Allow for clarification questions which can answered in “deep questions & answers” mode by both the teacher(s) and the students.
  • At the beginning of a face-to-face course, run a quick multiple-choice-questions test to validate people’s learning (and incentivise procrastinators).
  • Dynamically organise students in groups of 3 to 4 students with one-hour project tasks. Whilst students work on assignments, they can continue asking questions.
  • Collect results from project teams.
  • Get them evaluated by the other project teams.
  • Organise a short plenary session with students’ questions collected and prioritised dynamically.
  • Get participants (teachers, students, coaches, third parties) to evaluate the experience, identify opportunities to improve the symFlo template for the course. Run experiments with different ideas and evaluate them in metaSymFlos.