Let’s Have a Collaboratory

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Collaboration

I ran across a word that was new to me a few weeks ago on a company’s blog. The word was “collaboratory.” I didn’t know if it was a real word or not, but the mere sound of it sparked an idea I’d like us to consider at my company.

Here’s my thought…
Just as another prominent area of our company has periodic events to showcase or discuss topics relevant to their work, what if the team I serve on sponsors and plans a “Collaboratory” event for 2-3 days next year? What would that look like? Here are some ideas for sessions and emphases:
  • We could showcase collaboration efforts from other stand-out companies both in terms of process and technologies, perhaps with speakers in person or virtual from those companies to tell their story.
  • We could feature presentations by associates throughout the company sharing their collaboration efforts. An open application process prior to the event would allow for people to submit proposals to tell their collaboration successes with the most innovative and impressive examples granted time to share.
  • Include open dialogue on what our company does well regarding collaboration, where we struggle, and brainstorm ideas for how we can improve.
  • Form a team of volunteers to be given a collaboration problem/challenge early in the event and have them present by the end of the event a proposed solution that includes process, participants and technologies.
  • Include one or more keynotes of worthy guest speakers – internal or external.
  • Provide guidance regarding best practices (or better yet, “next” practices) in collaboration.
  • Have people walk away with recommended resources for further exploration on the subject.
Such an event is in the idea stage right now and needs to be massaged by many people, not just those on our small team. But it seems worthy of pursuing.
You can’t just tell people to collaborate and expect it to happen successfully. We all need to learn from those who are doing it well and to be challenged to let creative juices flow that, together, spark new ideas we would not have imagined separately.
By the way, one of my colleagues, Stephen, had the good sense to look the word up and he found this definition for “collaboratory” in Wikipedia:
a center without walls, in which the nation’s researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location, interacting with colleagues, accessing instrumentation, sharing data and computational resources, [and] accessing information in digital libraries” (William Wulf, 1989)
Are other companies doing this? Are there good examples of such events already taking place that you can point me to? What ideas do you have to make such a collaboratory a worthwhile, engaging, and informative experience?

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