The subject for today\u2019s diatribe is collaboration. Not the Vichy Regime type (although I suspect in many corporations today it is regarded with the same level of suspicion) \u2013 the sharing type. It\u2019s a subject I have written on before and one I suspect I will write on again because (in my humble opinion) it is an absolute must for ANY business, large or small, trying to be successful in today\u2019s \u2018social\u2019 environment. Effective collaboration both between companies (to build innovative partnerships) and internally (focused on creating a more open and agile workforce) will become critical to profitable growth or in many cases, simply survival.\nLast week I was asked to deliver a presentation at the CIO Technology Transformation Summit on successful business collaboration and that forced me to sit down and really think about what it is (and isn\u2019t), why it is important and what is required to do it properly.\nSo let\u2019s start at the top. What is collaboration? The dictionary definition is that it is \u2018the action of working with someone to produce something\u2019. Pretty simple you think - and yet when you apply it to the business world (and you get management consultants involved) all of a sudden it becomes very complicated and very expensive.\nPerhaps it is easier to start with what it isn\u2019t. What it definitely is not is a tool or a process. No matter what any software vendor or technology company tries to tell you, you cannot create a collaborative environment by installing an IT platform - even if it has the word social or portal in the product marketing.\nCollaboration has to start with people and culture. This is not to say that tools and technologies aren\u2019t important, but you have to start by creating the kind of environment that encourages people to work together. Paul Dawson, partner at Fluxx my co-presenter on this occasion, said that \u2018collaboration starts with celebration\u2019. What he meant was that people are naturally collaborative in many aspects of their lives but it hasn\u2019t always been something that has been encouraged in a work environment so leadership teams need to make sure that it is understood that collaboration is not just accepted \u2013 it is actually celebrated. The key is to accept that ideas are not something to be owned \u2013 indeed they are usually made better if they are shared and built upon.\nUnderstanding that the words \u2018work\u2019 and \u2018collaboration\u2019 have not always sat well together is important because it means that sometimes a little push is required. As Dawson puts it \u2013 it\u2019s a bit like blind dating. Sometimes it\u2019s a good idea to force people who have never met before together because a beautiful thing could come out of it. It won\u2019t always work but once you have done it a couple of times you also find that it\u2019s not scary anymore and sometimes it\u2019s actually quite enjoyable.\nMike Altendorf: Social media \u2013 the IT equivalent to free love?\nWhile you never start with a tool or technology that doesn\u2019t mean that they aren\u2019t important. They are critical in fact. Why? The step change in the technology evolution is that most people for the first time have better technology at home than they have at work and are already using it to collaborate across different aspects of their lives. Social media channels have people collaborating across geographies and communities all the time; mobile devices mean they communicate at any time, from anywhere. The tools that we use in our personal lives (and in the case of LinkedIn \u2013 manage our professional lives) are in most cases far more advanced than those that enterprise software houses will try and sell you. If you want people to collaborate in a work environment you need to provide the tools they are already using, which in most cases is no longer email, or at least implement some that work the same way.\nMike Altendorf: Create an environment in which collaboration is rewarded\nThe third piece of the collaboration jigsaw is the data. If you are asking people to work together on something they all need to understand what that something is, have access to the same information about it and be able to find, understand and share insights from it. Traditionally the way we have approached the management of information within a company has been similar to how we use a library. Data is catalogued and filed \u2013 requests are made and individual sets of data are supplied. That structure doesn\u2019t fit when we are talking about collaboration. We have to move away from linear structures towards something that is more mind map than library. Ontology might sound like the name of a hospital department but I suspect it\u2019s a word you will come across more and more in the coming months.\nSo having started with the idea that collaboration is simple it seems that keeping it simple is actually quite complicated. There is a lot that goes in to creating the right environment. But collaboration IS important. It drives innovation; it brings people together with a shared sense of purpose and so encourages creativity and improves productivity. Fundamentally it also makes people happy. This is why we are all doing it all the time in our personal lives. And with that I will leave you with thatfountain of wisdom\u00a0 that is Dogbert. Over and out.