Collaborating Is a Waste of Time If It Falls Into These 4 Traps Be wary of groupthink, three-hour meetings and open offices dominated by chatterboxes. Encourage meaningful followup on worthy ideas.

By Tony Lopresti

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Collaboration is a hot topic these days. With the rise of distributed workforces, the pressing need to get the most out of limited resources and the potential opportunities that mobile, social and cloud technologies bring to bear, companies spend a lot of time promoting collaboration as a way to be more efficient.

Unfortunately, in their search to turn collaboration into a time-saving tool, many organizations have failed to realize the full benefits of enterprise collaboration. Instead they have promoted collaboration tactics that waste employees' time.

Related: How 10 Savvy Companies Use Food to Boost Morale and Collaboration

Here are a few examples of collaboration gone awry:

1. Losing the individual. With the intense focus granted to collaboration, many companies are losing site of the value of individuals. Groupthink is a very real phenomenon where people in the midst of collaboration tend to agree with one another's ideas in order to reach a consensus. In the business world, it's a dangerous practice that creates a culture of over-collaboration. Although this might cut your meeting time in half, important ideas and feedback may be lost.

To combat groupthink, encourage all individuals working on a project together to brainstorm independently and record their thoughts and ideas before the meeting. Kick off the group brainstorming session with each person reading the information they've captured. Even better, have each employee add their thoughts to a shared area so it's all in one spot and easily accessible for use down the road.

2. The three-hour meeting. Talking about our ideas is great. But discussing them until we have circled back to the starting point is not. This can happen especially when there is no way or only a bad method to capture the ideas discussed.

Imagine the boardroom, with everyone scribbling down notes on individual notepads. After the meeting, everyone returns to their desk, and that's where the ideas are put on pause. Eventually someone might transcribe their notes into an email that gets circulated, but that email will become buried in inboxes, and then you're back to square one.

Instead of having long, drawn-out meetings where nothing gets accomplished, limit your gatherings to 30 minutes at most, and make sure one person is responsible for capturing pertinent information in real time and assigning tasks to people as the meeting progresses.

Related: What Makes a Perfect Collaboration? Weakness, Conflict and Doughnuts

3. Mandated team collaboration. We all look to technology to make our work lives easier. But when an enterprise mandates that all people at the company collaborate with technology that's built for teams, individual productivity can be an unintended causality. Programs that are built for teams and not for individual use can elicit cultural resistance. And they're often rigid and inflexible, creating more work to get around the confines of the program.

A quick fix to this problem is to make sure that your collaboration software isn't top-down. That means that the technology should be built to allow individuals to independently capture and organize their own information without always having to collaborate.

4. Trapped in an open office. Open office plans are growing in popularity. When employees can see one another, they tend to talk out loud to co-workers instead of sending emails. This fosters a sense of community and allows for information to be conveyed more quickly than when emails are shuttled back and forth. This setup, however, can be dangerous when there's too much talking. Information passed along verbally is much more likely to become lost or translated improperly than when messages are transmitted electronically. Additionally, everyone works differently. One person's enjoyable friendly chatter is another inidividual's endless chatterbox nightmare.

Be sure that there's always enough quiet space available. Provide office quiet zones or available conference rooms for those employees who can't focus when their co-workers are talking.

Related: What Do Dropbox, Green Mountain and 3-D Printing Have in Common?

Tony Lopresti is the co-founder and CEO of Intellinote, a cloud-based Workforce Operations Management (WOM) solution built from the ground up to optimize everyday collaborative workflows. Designed for both individuals and teams, Intellinote enables everyone to create virtual workspaces, take actions, collaborate and seamlessly get work done – anytime, anywhere and on any device.

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