Here is why Retail chain stores and coffee bars are better than traditional R&D

coffee cup and collaboration skills

Cheers to  #National coffee day ; Drinking coffee is good for your heart and lowers the risk of cognitive decline.

This is the third part in the series on the Best practices for social collaboration.  You can find part 1 and Part 2 here.

Please find few more

Create a system, which is not too loose or not too rigid

One of the best ways for improvisation is to create a system, which is not too loose nor too rigid.  Something, which is at the edge of chaos.  To know more, please read our blog post on ‘Social collaboration’ at the edge of chaos here.  The essence is in the usage of ‘semi structures’ as Brown and Eisenhardt point out.  You can request for a research report at Research gate.  A structure, which is not too rigid and yet flexible enough to create a change even at the last moment.

There are very few such global organizations, which can boast of such intelligent semi-structures.  Titan is one among them.

There is a need for critical balance for problem solving at the edge of chaos.  For example, the design process at Titan is not structured and the designers had the freedom to improvise and change plans even at the very last moment.

Processes need to be flexible to change in response to an unforeseen development should it happen. Something called ‘opportunistic planning’ as cognitive scientist Barbara Hayes Roth calls it. We will discuss more on ‘Opportunistic planning’ in our upcoming posts.

The company has built coffee shops everywhere, an increasing trend we have been seeing lately where people communicate and interact with each other.

Another company called cruising has successfully developed cross-pollination of projects – where everybody borrows ideas from everybody.

Managing momentary knowledge

We know that any knowledge that we create is momentary.  It lasts for a very short time.  Research points that to be successful we need to spread those expertise, improvements, and small innovations as quickly as possible to the rest of the organization.

A good example is the retail chain stores.  The retail chain stores succeed at scaling up quite fast.

Now how is it done ?

Tiny improvisations done at a small activity in one corner of the store is quickly spread to the rest of the functions.  If the improvisations benefit their customer and operations, it is quickly spread to other company outlets and franchises.  They will adopt it immediately so much for their collaboration skills.


Having multifaceted job roles that encourages collaboration skills

Another method within organizations would be to create broad job titles with multi-faceted roles at least from the middle management layer.

When employees are rotated from one job assignment to another within a short period (3-4 months) then there is a likelihood that they will share their tacit knowledge as well.  Sharing tacit knowledge is something of a big challenge these days.  Sharing tacit knowledge in such situations diffuses more effectively within workplaces.

Collaborative social intranets is the new answer to traditional R&D

Toyota has the shortest development time in the industry (Keith Sawyer: Group genius).  Toyota innovates often. Keeps its processes flexible enough for change and encourages a collaborative organization.

Companies spend millions of dollars on their research and development function.  Such focus on R & D is a traditional model.  R & D cannot be looked at as a separate function.  Improvisations and innovations  that keep happening in any corner of the workplace need to be diffused quickly and this calls for a newer collaborative organization through social intranets.  Social intranet gives us that chance to select the best of workable ideas and give a try on the promising ones.

Measuring your team collaboration

Measuring how well an organization has fared in collaborative efforts can be measured through social network analysis.  Big companies like Proctor and Gamble and Capital use it.  The analysis shows the strength and the extent of the connections spread that employees have within the organization.  One interesting way is to measure the collaboration right after an innovation workshop or a conference. People are fresh with new perspectives and ideas.  A collaboration heat map can show us where collaboration is happening and where it is not.  It gives us an insight as to where it should happen.  It is gives us a solid understanding how teams work together in your organization.





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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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