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The "collaboration” buzzword rides high in today’s tech-savvy workplace, but do productivity and collaboration always go hand-in-hand? 

According to Harvard Business Review, the average employee spends around 80 percent of his/her time in meetings, on the phone and sending emails. While collaboration apps often intend to increase efficiency, they just as frequently backfire into collaboration overload, creating risks for enterprises and leaving employees feeling burnt out. 

When businesses lack the proper tools to effectively connect people, processes and information they end up relying on multiple disconnected tools. 

Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion can help illustrate how effective collaborative software affects the bottom line.  

First Law of Collaboration: Information in Motion

Newton’s first law states that an object in motion stays in motion unless an external force is applied to it.  

In its natural state, information has business value when it is in motion. Through collaborating and sharing information, we can create true business force.  

However, many artificial obstacles and forces can inhibit information’s motion.  

Enterprise applications that do not permit users to access information and documents outside corporate firewalls or IT security policies that lock down websites and other mediums for information sharing rank among the strongest forces inhibiting inertia. For example, ask any sales team how something as simple as collaborating on a legal contract while trying to close a deal before a quarter end can be the difference between the company hitting its financial targets or not

Second Law of Collaboration: The Formula of Business Force

Newton’s second law of motion is force equals mass times acceleration.  

This law demonstrates that objects with greater mass require more force to move the same distance as objects with less mass.  Similarly, we can translate Newton’s law in the boardroom as follows:

  • business force = information’s criticality times rate of collaboration

This illustrates that the rate at which an organization accelerates information sharing and flow directly affects its power to execute on its goals. If organizations want to unleash their full force in their markets, they need technology that can simultaneously promote the flow of information and increase the rate at which users can collaborate.  

The second law plays a crucial role in industries where intellectual property represents a company’s competitive edge. Enabling the flow and acceleration of collaboration on critical information, such as patent documents, can be the difference between whether a company — or one of its competitors — files a patent first and, through that patent, dominates an industry where billions of dollars are at stake.

Third Law of Collaboration: Business Reaction 

Newton’s third law of motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  

Applying this third law in the business world means that for every email sent, document distributed or piece of information shared, an equal and opposite reaction happens. For example, an email ends up in a recipient’s junk folder and that person remains uninformed, or a document with proprietary information is accidentally shared with a competitor, resulting in the loss of intellectual property.  

Not all information holds the same mass (criticality). And employees do not always treat the company information they collaborate on with the level of guardianship appropriate to the information’s criticality.  

In some cases, such as when sharing information results in a data breach, companies can lose billions of dollars. Google “consumer data breach” or ask any compliance professionals if they would prefer to avoid making headlines in the Wall Street Journal to understand what's at risk. Therefore, seamless control, security and compliance should be essential to the collaboration solutions organizations deploy.

Keep Collaboration in Motion

Newton’s laws of motion help us embrace the natural state of information sharing. 

The easier and faster a business can enable its employees to accelerate critical information flow directly increases the business’s force toward achieving its goals and objectives. Yet, the opposite reactions — critical information falling into the wrong hands — can devastate any organization.  

Companies that understand the science of collaboration seek out software that embraces all of these principles.

Title image Scott Webb