SHARED MINDS: The New Technologies of Collaboration by Michael Schrage

SHARED MINDS: The New Technologies of Collaboration

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Here, Schrage, former chief technology writer for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, tries to go beyond mere teamwork and coordination in the work-place to describe and analyze how businesses can foster collaboration. In Schrage's view, two heads are much better than one--genuine collaboration results in a product whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. He argues that management is typically more concerned about coordinated actions than shared creation--the sort of collaboration represented by the work of DNA co-discoverers Watson and Crick or musical-theater greats Rodgers and Hammerstein. Organizations can ""communicate"" until they are blue in their collective faces, says Schrage, without achieving much more than a stack of hostile, self-justifying memos. Schrage argues that ""[it] takes shared space to create shared understandings."" As a classic example of shared space, he offers the blackboard, where collaborators can jot down their thoughts; the modern equivalent is computer, augmented collaboration. For example, Schrage points out, Xerox's Colab is built around a team interface concept called WYSIWIS (""what you see is what I see""). WYSIWIS allows participants to use a large community screen with multiple windows that can be enlarged, shrunk, moved around, linked, clustered, or stored. The collaboration takes place directly on the screen, which all participants share and control, permitting visual images and spoken language to work synergistically to create mutual understanding. Schrage goes on to discuss ""collaborative architectures"" and ways to redesign workspaces to foster collaboration, suggests 13 ingredients to success collaboration (""competence""; ""mutual respect, tolerance, and trust,"" etc.), and closes with a chapter titled ""The One-Minute Collaborator,"" a summary of ""how to create a computer-augmented collaborative tool."" An ambitious but not wholly successful attempt to analyze and quantify the delicate, ineffable art of collaboration--and thus of more theoretical than practical interest, despite the advice to businesspeople that Schrage offers in his concluding chapter.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1990
Publisher: Random House