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Neil Garra
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« on: 30 Oct 09, 1232 hrs »



Spectrum of Collaboration


Modern technology has everybody excited about over the possibilities & potentials of collaboration.   But what is a “Little Collaboration”?  A “Lot of Collaboration”?   The degrees, parameters, or aspects of collaboration?   We are stuck using imprecise language and poorly defined terminology.   Having commonly understood definitions would be VERY useful!

I found several “Categories of Collaboration” on the Internet.  There was no standard.  Further, each was focused in a different direction: Brown University Education Dept only considered teaching forms (discussion, mentoring, etc); the software developers at Back Office Systems focused on elements of technology required to achieve collaboration (synchronous, asynchronous, etc).   So…  

Since I haven’t been able to find a suitable naming system, here is a Draft Prototype!

Level   Description   Examples
5   All do the same thing at once in sync.  Effort is spent to ensure absolute uniformity of effort.   Chorus line, marching in formation, sculling. Painting a room where all hold a brush and stroke at same time.

4   Joint creation or effort, where each plays a different but interlocking role in achieving goal.  Effort is spent to orchestrate & synchronize.   Fred & Ginger, Football, Team Doom. Painting a room where one strips, one masks, one paints. 36th Army Band.

3   Mutual feedback toward a common goal.  Effort is spent to ensure the output of one is useable by the next.
  Wrestling Team, Chess Bughouse, Painting a room where each takes a different wall to strip, mask, and paint. Cool Cactus Jazz ensemble of the 36th Army Band.

2   Exchange of ideas and concepts; providing feedback.   Effort made to ensure free-flow of ideas/concepts, and to keep on topic. One performs, others critique during performance.   Deathmatch Doom. Golf foursome. NRA sponsored rifle marksmanship range. Discussing a book that was read; or sending a letter to the author with comments. Each paints a different room, but shares TTP with others.

1   Authority (supervisor or subject matter expert) guides the direction of effort or study.  May or may not critique.   One directs, another does: any critique comes afterwards.   Effort made to ensure the direction is very clear and complete.

  M16 Qualification Range. Reading a book from a Reading List.  Paint room by one telling another where/when/how to paint.
0   Individual directs self.  Critiques self.   No external interference.  Standards self-directed.   Shooting targets on Plinking Range.  Solo Doom.  Reading a book. Painting a room.



What it’s NOT:

a.  This does NOT take task complexity into account.  Blooms Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain does that very well.

b.  This does indicate which of the above is “Best” or “Better”.   Some are better or worse for different situations.

c.  This does not categorize the amount of freedom or restriction. Some of the above are inherently more free from restriction than others.  Freedom of action can be high or low at any level depending on other factors.

d.  Enforcement is not an issue. For instance, Level 1 can come from a Drill Sergeant ordering a Private, or from Bob Vila discussing carpet-laying on TV.  In the first case, enforcement is via the threat of UCMJ.  In the second, from the threat of poorly laid carpet assuming the viewer even decides to install carpet or care about the results.  (See g. below).

e.  Physical proximity not an issue here.   The lowest form can be done in a room of 50 others (library)… the highest form can be done solitaire (national moment of silence).



Some Initial Observations / Implications:

a.  During a collaborative effort, people within the group who participate at different levels disrupt the overall effort.  For instance, when Level 4 is desired, you want everyone to be part of the Team.   Note the effect that a person who is cooperating at a different level might have!   One weakness of the All-Star Team concept is that they all tend to work at Level 3 as virtuosos working toward a common goal instead of at Level 4 as a true synchronized team.  That’s why pro football replaced the AFL vs NFL All Star Game with the AFL vs NFL Superbowl (which later became AFC vs NFC when the AFL merged with the NFL.  Not to imply that I am old enough to actually remember this stuff...)

b.  Groups can externally cooperate at different levels then they are at.  A Bde Staff will function at either Level 4 (we call it a “High performing staff”) or Level 3.  Their collaborative relationship to the Div Staff will be at a lower level.  Perhaps a LOT lower!  

An important thing to point out in a. and b. is that a methodology designed for Level 2, synchronization and orchestration, is under-performing at levels 1 (too much constraint) or 3 (not enough coordination).  However, a methodology designed for Level 3 is best done that way. The 36th Army Band, like the great German orchestras undoubtedly familiar to Clausewitz, must orchestrate and synchronize to sound good.  

However, the Cactus Cool Jazz Combo (36th Army Band) only used written music to initiate the session.  The goal of jazz improvisation is to get off of the written music as soon as possible.  During the performance, subtle cues are used between players to pass the melody between musicians, and all others then play in support until the melody is transferred again.  Subtle clues also determine when the group has completed the song, and as a group they 'fly' the music into a conclusion.

'No Plan Ever Survives First Contact' isn't a problem in jazz improv... it is the goal.
[1]

  
c.  Groups can externally cooperate at different levels with other groups.  A BN Staff might relate to one other BN Staff at Level 3 , relate to two others at Level 2, and relate to the Bde Staff at Level 1.  Interesting interactions might occur when the other staff interacts back at a different level!

d.  A group may perform different tasks at different levels to optimize efficiency.

e.  There is nothing inherently good or evil about any particular level.

f.  External factors (ie Mission, Goal, boss’ guidance) may dictate an optimal level.

g.  Behaviorist vs Constructivist seems to reside in the enforcement.  Behaviorist approach seems to favor external enforcement (you will attain this goal); Constructivist approach seems to favor internal enforcement (I need to attain that goal).    



 1. 
I was the representative from the Intelligence Center & School to the Army After Next effort, led by Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege, where we discussed the characteristics of the Army of 2025.  This required a lot of flying to the east coast, and on one flight out I read about the mechanics of Jazz Improvisation.  The next day we were discussing the ideal for future battle planning & battle execution.  Although the content of the discussion wasn't new, I instantly recognized it as the application of jazz improvisation principles to warfighting.  In contrast, our current methods seemed to be the application of philharmonic orchestration to warfighting.  When I returned from that trip, I arranged to observe the 36th Army Band's Cactus Cool Jazz Combo in practice, and then spent some time talking with them about how they did it... the specific mechanics.  This resulted in a number of insights to be described elsewhere.   We are all familiar with the quotations, usually from our enemies, about the screwy but oddly effective US Army planning process.  Jazz Improvisation is an American creation.  Is it any wonder that, in time of war, we wield our synchronization-loving orchestra-modeled teutonic-inspired doctrinal planning/execution process like the Americans we are?
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