In a post on improving cognitive ability through collaboration, Dennis McDonald makes this point:
When you think about all the pressures people have to stay within the “comfort zones” of professional or disciplinary communities, though, there are many situations where going outside is actively or passively discouraged.
Does your organization (or discipline) encourage or discourage you to directly go to others with whom you want to collaborate?
Many organizations cling to the traditional notion that people who want to work together need to do so by going through their supervisor. Essentially they have to wait until their supervisor talks to the other person’s supervisor, and if the two agree that people from their teams can work together, the respective employees will get the go-ahead.
Sound crazy? It is!
Even when this exact scenario isn’t the case, many organizations are so hierarchically structured that people from different teams have very few opportunities to discover each other.
Dennis goes on to suggest that collaborative tools and social networks can break down these boundaries. I think he’s right.
Wikis, for example, give teams a place to aggregate and organize their work in a centrally accessible place. They can choose to keep certain information private and accessible only to team members (and they should, when necessary).
More importantly, they can keep some pages in their wiki space accessible to the larger organization to share information they want others to have access to. This allows someone to find information they need about a project or service without sending you an email (thus helping control inbox overflow), or calling a meeting (which costs too much time relative to the value it provides).
By having access to that information, people outside your group will better know what you do. Then they can use other tools like an internal social network to get in touch and build a relationship around common interests, projects, etc.