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Getting to "we"

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When I first read Getting to "we" in the April 2008 Communications of the ACM, I really liked two things about the article:

  • The 4 categories of Information sharing, Coordination, Cooperation, and Collaboration, with technology examples for each. Good framework: I will throw those terms around more carefully now.
  • The mention of whole system change methods like Appreciative inquiry and Charrettes to get to collaboration. The Change Handbook includes a lot more methods. Over the past 2 years, I have found the Nexus for Change conference a great way to learn more about these methods.

(You can download the article from ACM above. It is also available at The Profession of IT series from Peter J. Denning.)

A few other folks thought this article was also worth mentioning:

  • Thomas Vander Wal points out that "most of the tools and not even come close" to what we need for collaboration.
  • Jack Vinson expands on "collaboration and community" and ties in another CACM article about social ties.
  • Mark Lindsey summarizes the punchline of the article: "collaboration comes by failure of other plans".

Weeks later after first reading it, I am still finding it useful (I have gone back to it several times lately), so I decided to mention it here. This article is another nice data point on the "IT systems" meets "social change" landscape for me.


Hi Keith,

I haven't read these sources, but Clay Shirky's book, Here Comes Everybody, also makes use of this sort of framework -- not for experience design considerations, per se, but for understanding the overall utility of social media. (Maybe you've read it? I'm half way through and will bite off another chunk on my flight this evening!)


I got a copy of Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody and have made it to Chapter 2, which includes a section called "From Sharing to Cooperation to Collective Action". This is the part Ruth is referencing in her comment above (thanks, Ruth!). A summary of his framework:

  • Sharing. Easiest. Aggregation of participants. Negotiation not required. Shared information (creating awareness).
  • Cooperation. Harder than sharing because it means changing your behavior. Group identity. Conversation is a simple form of cooperation. Producing something collaboratively is more involved: decisions have to be made. Shared creation.
  • Collective action. Hardest form of group effort. Group decisions are binding to individuals. Shared responsibility. Tragedy of the commons. Need shared vision.

I was going to compile a list of links from this section of the book's Bibliography, but "my mind on books" already did this (for the entire book).

I found this next-to-last sentence in Chapter 2 pretty interesting, too:

Ridiculously easy group-forming matters because the desire to be part of a group that shares, cooperates or acts in concert is a basic human instinct that has always been constrained by transaction costs.