While internal collaboration sounds ideal, it can be difficult to achieve, especially considering traditional work models. Kelly (2009) lists several aspects of a workplace culture that will foster collaboration. The first factor that helps create a collaborative environment is “come and go as you please” schedules. According to Kelly, when management allows alternative schedules, telecommuting, and time off to attend to personal commitments, collaboration, ironically, is likely. Employees will need to use various document creation, planning, communication, and file-sharing tools to accomplish their goals. If there is a culture that encourages the sharing of information, collaboration will be likely. Employees who are connected, technically savvy, early adopters of the latest technology, and open to the possibility of discussing work at any time will be more likely to collaborate. Finally, management that demonstrates by example that they value collaboration will also find that they have a staff that is likely to collaborate.
If these factors encourage collaboration, then it stands to reason that the opposite factors will inhibit collaboration. Expecting employees to not only always be at the office but at their desks does not encourage a collaborative environment. Micromanaging will not lead to cooperation; management must loosen up control if they hope to achieve creative collaboration. Kelly describes “knowledge archipelagos,” islands of information caused by the hoarding of knowledge by individual employees; these archipelagos are the opposite of collaboration. If there is a split in the staff between those who achieve work-life balance by only conducting work during traditional working hours and those who are willing to be constantly available through technology, even during non-work hours, then collaboration will be difficult. Finally, when some or all of the staff is paid an hourly rate (instead of an annual salary), collaboration outside of paid work shifts is unlikely. The availability of collaborative tools such as Google Docs, wikis, or Skype will not create collaboration amongst a staff that is anti-collaboration due to personal or corporate beliefs and practices that stifle it.
Kelly, W. (2009). Corporate culture, not technology, drives collaboration. Web Worker Daily.
My experience with group projects in SLIS has mostly been positive. I especially enjoyed my LIBR 202 group. I had heard that 202 was hard, but my group was so wonderful that 202 went very smoothly for me. I was so grateful to my group! Everyone in the group was dedicated, diligent, and wanted to do well. I remember that the professor gave each group a name, and we were the Butterflies.
I have had one negative group experience in SLIS. We were writing a group paper, and we also had to write anonymous comments about our group members’ contributions. A couple of the group members were night owls who thrive on last minute pressure. Our group name should have been the Vampires. They wrote their emails, edited the Google document, and added to the discussion board in the middle of the night. In the feedback I received, one of my group members said that I didn’t respond quickly enough to emails. I was furious! I thought it was totally unreasonable to expect responses in the middle of the night. Call me crazy, but I sleep at night (I have the pale skin of a vampire, but not the sleep schedule). We earned an A on the assignment, so the story does have a happy ending. But I was so angry that I wrote an email to the professor about it. She responded, and then she reorganized the groups. And my new group was awesome!
So from this experience, I would give the following advice. If you are allowed to choose your groups members, look carefully at the discussion boards. See who always posts early, see who always posts late, and consider the timing of your own postings. If you are always one of the first three or four people in the class to post, ask the other early posters if they would like to work with you in a group. And the opposite: if you are always one of the last students to post, ask the other late posters if they would like to work with you. I am not trying to criticize either group, but I am saying that it will be stressful for people with wildly varying approaches to time management to work together. You might also consider time of day people are posting and what time zone they live in.
Working with people who have the same tendencies you have timewise does not guarantee a successful group, but it is something to base a decision on when you are trying to create groups with people you don’t know well.