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27th Apr 2017
3 Min Read

Stop, collaborate and listen

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
People & Change

Collaboration is a hot topic, and something that many organisations are keen to implement to boost innovation and reduce silo mentality.

In the tech world, collaboration fell flat on its face when Apple and Motorola decided to work together on a new phone and released the Motorola Rokr E1. Despite being the first ever phone to sync with iTunes, it only allowed the transfer and storage of 100 songs at any one time, rendering it ultimately useless for anyone with a music collection that stretched beyond a single artist. As a further kick in the teeth to collaboration, Apple released on the very same stage that day what would go on to become the best-selling music player of all time – the iPod Nano. A product Apple didn’t collaborate with anyone else on.

So what does it take to truly foster meaningful collaboration? The story behind Twitter’s icon and naming conventions actually provide us with some good examples.

The original Twitter logo wasn’t a bird at all – it was a wordmark that simply read ‘Twitter’. The idea for a bird came from an artist called David Lanham, who created a bird logo for a third-party twitter app, Twitterrific, whilst working at Iconfactory. He saw an app in development, and without further ado submitted an icon for the team to use. Twitter would go on to roll with the bird theme and redesigned their own logo years later, which is now the classic bird icon we know today.

The word ‘tweets’ was also the result of collaboration. Twitter actually referred to tweets as ‘twits’ originally. The idea to use the word tweet came from Twitter’s Chief Architect, Blaine Cook, and not their marketing or communications team. Furthermore, the idea wasn’t popularised by Twitter. Blaine sent his idea to Craig Hockenberry, who was building Twitterrific at Iconfactory. It was the success of this app that drove adoption of the word tweet.

True collaboration comes from an environment that supports it. Creating ‘working groups’ to collaborate might work on a project basis, but without the right environment this kind of collaboration is not sustainable.

It’s also essential to have smart, passionate and highly skilled people across your organisation. They need to be confident in their abilities and conviction to do what’s right and what works in each situation.

Recognition of collaboration is the final piece of the puzzle. Even after helping springboard the platform, influence their logo and popularise their naming conventions, Twitter introduced limitations on the number of users that could utilise third party apps, massively hampering their reach. It’s so important to recognise the great results that come from effective collaboration and tell the stories of success to your people, paving the way for a collaboration-sustaining environment.

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