even now, some weeks after the yahoo! changes, the hot topic is still collaboration and productivity and what it all means. what’s better? how do you define better? what’s the best way to attain high levels of either one? which is right and which is wrong?

for some organizations, productivity is important. standardizing processes, reducing rework, optimizing output from people and systems, it all leads to less risk and lower costs. i have n number of staff active for x number of hours in a day and i am getting (x—y) hours or productivity out of those people where my job is to make _y _approach zero. costs are lower, profits are higher.

these organizations are in a race to the bottom. striving to be the cheapest. fighting to get the most out of each hour in their people’s day. optimizing. minimizing. less than human.

for other organizations, collaboration is key. interacting with people to share experiences, build relationships, and work on new ideas, it all adds to greater levels of trust and engagement. it doesn’t necessarily reduce costs, and there’s argument over how much extra profit those new ideas generate.

but it’s not a race to the bottom for them. instead, these organizations believe that you have to spend money to make money, and time wasted when two colleagues spend 20 minutes talking about where they’re from, and which school they went to, and what they’re working on isn’t time wasted at all. it’s sub-optimal, but it’s worth the investment.

so which is right?

it doesn’t make sense for a manufacturing company running an assembly line to desire collaboration over productivity because you need to turn out as many trinkets with as few defects as your plant can provide in a single day. it doesn’t make sense for an automobile dealership to desire collaboration over productivity because you need to move more cars and more people in and out of the dealership to hit your quotas. and because you’re special—in a certain market, with certain restrictions, doing a certain type of work—and most importantly because you’re in the business of doing things that other people tell you to do, it doesn’t make sense for your company, or your agency, or your organization to desire collaboration over productivity.

or does it?