Spotlight on InfoComm 2019

3 Collaboration Challenges That Technology Can’t Solve (But Your Tech Business Can)

Your collaboration business could stand a lesson in these three colloboration challenges that simply cannot be solved by technology alone.

Jeff Day Leave a Comment
3 Collaboration Challenges That Technology Can’t Solve (But Your Tech Business Can)

Despite recent, incredible advances in collaboration technology, many organizations don’t see more fundamental collaboration challenges solved. The culprit is not the tools, it’s the collaboration culture itself.

I’ve been in the collaboration business my entire life. Since I count all forms of communication as collaboration, you can join me in experience qualification.

We are a communicative species, having successfully figured it out over the millennia. Our messages are both simple and complex. Understanding the nuances of intentions against actual conveyed messages has always been a high-stakes affair.

In the zeal for improved communications, collaboration tools set out to make it easier and more productive to escalate the modality of our dialog.

Simple presence indication, for example, can let others know we are on or offline. Virtual meetings in whatever form them come offer the border-less meeting room where we can conduct our business from anywhere at any time.

So why do our meetings and communications struggle? Especially in the work place?

Collaboration challenges have nothing to do with the tools. They have everything to do with you and your culture.

I’ve found excellent communicators in tech savvy groups as well as old school ones. I’ve seen bad communicators as well. I personally have not seen anything worse than a bad communicator in a bad tech environment. It’s destructive to an organization’s collaboration culture.

Most companies I interact with say they value collaboration at some level as a company value. Few companies really live it.

Since the focus of this conversation spans both culture and technology vectors, I will outline a few ideas how leaders and technologists can improve their collaboration and maximize innovation and approaches.

1. Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications

In the early days at Cisco when we were launching Telepresence, we frequently cited these communications facts:

  • 80% of communication is non-verbal
  • People remember 30% of what they hear, 50% of what they see, and 80% of what they see and hear

Communication is a sensory experience. What you do while you communicate speaks volumes. It affects communications.

When you attend a meeting, are you there or are you simply occupying a seat and sucking air out of the room? Meeting effectiveness can tie back in a significant way to engagement level.

Leadership Tips To Tell Your Collaboration Business Clients:

  • Consider making some of your meetings a no-phone zone. Check them at the door if needed. Shorten the meeting if people are that concerned about missing a call. Often, phones are used for more nefarious purposes…like commenting on someone’s presentation or, worse yet, submarine your meeting.
  • Mobile devices may be required for critical content. I suggest taking 20 seconds at the beginning of the meeting to clarify what tech will be used during the meeting to remove this barrier. For example, “…I’m going to be taking notes on my laptop,” or, “…I need to access our scorecard for the meeting today and will be using my tablet.”

2. Meeting Manners

When was the last time you looked at your Myers Briggs score? How often does that impatient side of you, or another meeting participant, find themselves barging in on a conversation before someone has a chance to finish their thought. Painful, right?!

In video calls people may put themselves in silent mode not activating video and muting mics, which communicates a whole different message. Tech does not solve communications problems, it amplifies them.

This is one of the prime collaboration challenges. It demonstrates real-time a lack of discussion discipline in the meeting and culture.

Meetings feel rudderless and people feel as though their time is being wasted.

This is accentuated in tech driven collaboration. It plays out on an audio or web call when people talk over each other.

In video calls people may put themselves in silent/stealth mode not activating video and muting mics, which communicates a whole different message. Tech does not solve communications problems, it amplifies them.

Leadership Tips To Tell Your Collaboration Business Clients:

  • Turn your camera on! In an age of web and video conversations, the price of participation is presence. I like that currency analogy too. If you don’t set the expectation and walk the walk yourself, you can’t expect a different or better result.
  • Seek first to listen. Covey got this one right a long time ago. One of the major collaboration challenges is to maintain the natural feel of a conversation. Good meeting manners have always been grounded in a desire to understand what others are saying rather than forcing your idea on the table. This lesson isn’t just for tech meetings either!

3. Be Present with your Presence

Presence in the collaboration technology sense refers to red, yellow, green light status. Are you available for communications? The notion of indicating you are open for communication really helps others know when and how to engage with you.

But does your presence indicate your presence? Here’s one of the major collaboration challenges – green doesn’t always mean go.

Worse yet, there’s nothing worse that seeing a phone or video icon in a meeting and they question turns to the present AWOL participant who now needs to be caught up on the conversation. Time wasted. Eject! Not just from the meeting, eject the participant from the web meeting…seriously!

Leadership Tips To Tell Your Collaboration Business Clients:

  • Consider recording meetings more often. If too many people are joining a call-in listen only mode, it’s probably no longer a meeting for that many people. A call recording can be published, and people can listen to the call at their leisure in the more common conference call venues: treadmill, McDonald’s drive thru, or during a serious game of Fort Nite. Call recording helps you sift and make more productive meetings.
  • Come to a meeting prepared! If you have been invited to an on-line meeting, come ready to engage. Prepare with pre-read materials done or action item follow up ready. Everyone’s accountable. Turning the camera ON tells others you are ready to engage. And don’t worry about the distractions that do happen all the time. For the telecommuter whose dog starts barking, or traveler whose gate change we can hear in the background, don’t stress it. That’s what MUTE on both video and audio are for. Embrace BEING and BEING present.

Original blog post on collaboration challenges posted at ( All rights reserved.