They have become ubiquitous in every sphere both public and private, so it’s no exaggeration to say that tech gadgets in general have completely transformed our way of life. Whether at work or at home, most people don’t go throughout their day without spending a substantial amount of time looking at a screen. Many thought pieces have declared this the disease of our time, that these devices make us more isolated from each other, but what the opposite can also be true. At least in the working world, what if tech gadgets were facilitating better communication, and thus more productive collaboration?
To begin with, the entire concept of the Internet was created with collaborative work in mind. Development of Internet precursor ARPANET began with the idea that communication between computers would facilitate a higher level of productivity and make larger projects possible. Needless to say, the tech sphere has met that expectation and exceeded it. The levels of collaboration that we see now would be considered something out of science fiction a few short decades ago.
The different types of collaboration software fall into three main categories: communication (think Slack or WhatsApp), conferencing (Skype or GoToMeeting), and coordination (Basecamp or Google Docs). All three types contain a multitude of features that combine to make up the modern collaborative business landscape. In addition, most have mobile apps that allow for collaboration to happen on any mobile phone or tablet, so the reaches of your business can go as far as your employees do. No longer does being out of the office mean being out of the loop.
Several fields have seen a substantial benefit from introducing tech devices to facilitate collaboration. In the medical arena for example, long-distance care and collaboration has been made possible by communication apps. Now, doctors from different countries can work together and share information that otherwise would have necessitated expensive and time-consuming travel. This has the additional benefit of allowing doctors from developing countries to consult with peers with richer access to medical tech, meaning poorer doctors are not left on their own. Full patient care may not quite cross those spatial boundaries yet, but it’s widely acknowledged that this is the next frontier to be settled in the medical industry.
While there are many benefits to using tech for collaborative work, I would be remiss not to mention some of the drawbacks. Experts recommend limiting this usage to smaller teams to prevent workers from feeling overwhelmed. When a huge number of people are at your fingertips, the amount of messaging that can happen can become a hindrance to getting work done. When a collaborative tool’s use is limited only to those who need it, only essential communication will be made and the job won’t be strained by unnecessary chatter.
There’s also the fact that the dangers of the internet can take on even more drastic urgency when you consider your work is being put out into the world. As we saw in 2014 with the Sony Pictures hack, even a relatively conventional tool like email is potentially a source of danger for your company’s work. Encryption is a must, but there still can be breakdowns in the security process that you and your company have to be aware of. A leak or hack can put all of your projects in serious jeopardy.
The dictionary definition of the word “collaborate” invariably includes the word “work.” The two concepts are inseparable. As the digital revolution has transformed the way we do work, those changes have gone hand in hand with changes in the way we collaborate. The transformation is unavoidable, and clearly has generated positive change for most businesses. To ignore this seismic shift in the way people work together is to be left behind.