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Collaborating with the Facebook Generation

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." Sir Isaac Newton's contributions to science remain singularly influential to scientists today.

In his day, collaboration was problematic at best. Despite the difficulty, he felt collaborating with peers and mentors were important. Fortunately, the advent of social media allows us to almost instantaneously create personal and professional relationships, which would otherwise be unavailable to us.

What's more, organisations can leverage social media best practices to encourage a more natural metaphor for collaboration among their project teams.

Social media is here to stay. Between blogging, podcasting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and social media-inspired collaboration tools, I spend a significant amount of my day productively keeping up to date, communicating with colleagues and collaborating with my team. I believe the social media metaphor makes sense as a collaboration facilitator.

When I speak with peers from around the world, applying social media best practice is a pretty hot topic. What's more, there doesn't seem to be much consensus on whether or not social media has a place in project management. I happen to believe it does, let me tell you why.

Social media encourages collaboration: Have you ever wondered why people who won't update project status within their project management tool will spend hours updating their status in Facebook or Twitter? I can give you two compelling reasons why:

1. Social media is easy to use- It's intuitive enough that almost anyone, with little or no training, can jump right in and start sharing. I believe something Facebook-like, that focuses conversations around projects, tasks and issues has the potential to be an incredibly valuable tool if leveraged to facilitate collaboration and capture timely and accurate status information.

2. Facebook users receive feedback-Make an update to your status in Facebook and you almost immediately receive feedback. Gen Y (the Millennial Generation) has practically grown up working in teams, collaborating on projects and using social media. They're accustomed to an almost continuous flow of feedback. What's more, most people are proud of what they do and want recognition for their accomplishments.

Project managers that facilitate this type of feedback and recognition will improve team member buy-in regarding their projects; encourage ownership among individuals on the team and increase productivity. The social media metaphor has become so ubiquitous that people of all generations are sharing information via social media-it's not just the Millennial Generation.

Social media methods capture the real story: I'm not advocating the implementation of Facebook or Twitter into the project environment, however I am suggesting that something Twitter-like or Facebook-like that facilitates the capture of qualitative project information gives context to traditional status indicators. It's this context that will give project leaders the real story for informing decisions.

Taking a more social approach to project management just makes sense. Because so many project failures can be traced back to communication issues, it seems apparent that any improvement we can make in how teams communicate with each other is a positive step toward project success. Fortunately for us, collaboration is much easier today than it was for Isaac Newton. I think the question is whether or not we can take full advantage of the tools at our disposal to effectively communicate and share information.