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Mark Twain once said “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter; it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightening.”

Well, if Twain could see today’s business world — where instead of Huckleberry Finn navigating the Mississippi River, we have cross-functional teams navigating complex projects — he might be inspired to swap his analogies from lightening bug and lightening, to collaboration and conversing.

conversing vs. collaborating
Yes, at first glance collaboration and conversing may look the same. You may even find a thesaurus that pairs them as synonyms. But in the context of business communication, they’re certainly not interchangeable—and a belief to contrary is a big reason why many enterprises think that their collaboration challenges are rooted in “people not conversing enough.”

Ironically, the problem is usually the opposite: people are over-conversing instead of truly collaborating! That’s why the work landscape is riddled with countless emails, chats, posts, calls and meetings. There’s an excess of conversing, but a scarcity of collaboration.

However, enterprises need to tap into effective and focused collaboration and not rampant ad hoc conversing  to ensure that investments and initiatives deliver on expected business goals. To that end, enterprises to need to:

  • Bring all team members and external stakeholders (e.g. customers, vendors, consultants, etc.) together in designated cloud-based workspaces, so that collaboration is efficient and centralized.
  • Enable project teams to collaborate on project planning and implementation, regardless of whether they’re using formal or informal methodologies.
  • Deliver real-time insights into all available resources, schedules and tasks, so that teams can collaborate on assignments and activities, and work together to address bottlenecks and workarounds.
  • Drive data sharing across systems (e.g. project management, CRM, HRIS, accounting, etc.), so that everyone is consistently accessing the latest, best information possible.
  • Put all communication in context, so that anyone on the team can track projects and work processes, without bogging down project and program managers.
  • Inspire employees with a sense of purpose by enabling them to see how their contribution connects to the bigger picture.

Of course, conversing still matters, and it has a role to play in the business communication mix (plus it can also be fun!). But when it comes to consistently achieving project, program and portfolio objectives — while driving innovation, engagement and ROI – there is no substitute for authentic collaboration.

Enterprises that grasp this fundamental principle — and demonstrate this by implementing a legitimate collaborative work management solution — will be empowered to succeed and grow. Those that don’t, as Twain might say, will find plenty of lightening bugs in the environment…but precious little lightening.

Anne Catambay
As head of global marketing, Anne Catambay draws on more than 20 years of leadership experience in Silicon Valley. She joins Clarizen from Badgeville, where her global marketing efforts helped the company achieve a leadership position in a new market category (gamification). Prior to Badgeville, Anne held senior roles in global partner marketing at VMware, driving dramatic growth in a new market and seeing the company through acquisition (EMC) and, subsequently, through a highly touted IPO. Previously, she ran demand generation at Keynote Systems during the company's successful IPO, ultimately leading the company's partner marketing, corporate marketing and demand generation efforts. Anne also drove market demand in the Americas for British software company Systems Union. She holds a B.S. In business marketing, a B.F.A. in photography from San Jose State University and an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University.