3 golden rules of IT success and how to avoid them

There’s a lot to be said for collaboration. Mostly that it comes with risk when it crosses organisational boundaries. Project politics, poor communication, inconsistent goals and objectives, and other messy realities interfere with idealised notions of process.

There are 3 golden rules in IT, which I wonder in these  days of global sharing and caring remain true?

1. Value creation defines success. Having a shared understanding of why the project is important counter counter balances problems such as budget or late delivery.

2. Collaboration is essential. Cross organisational and people boundaries create unspoken expectations between stakeholders and easily corrupted when a few hold power and act as gate-keepers. Collaboration involves active information sharing, not hording.

3. People matter most to avoid gridlock and denial. Successful teams engage multiple perspectives despite differences.

This does seem quite believable to me, mostly because I’ve had some experience of both success and failure in these situations over many years. It’s never easy in an organisation, so I find it really hard to subscribe to the popular idea, that in free and open – social media – it’s a breeze.

It’s easy in ‘social happy-land’ for small but powerful groups to easily distort what appears to matter, or important, simply because it’s hard to really know what they are really thinking or doing. While one person might believe they are collaborating, the other might just be using their efforts to build something quite different. There are no ethics in social media, so anything goes. It’s just as hard to mix commercial and non-commercial interests online as it has always been offline – if not harder.

If the circle of people who possess information is small enough, they don’t need to share (or allow sharing). This is useful to empower inside experts, who become rather adept at presenting a feeling that at some point – you’ll become an insider – a friend. Yeah, and we’ll all get picked first for the soccer team.

I think it’s delusional. The drive-by-anonymity of the web and our ability to seclude information or exclude people from conversations creates some nasty dynamics. The social contract which gifts some people, also marginalises others. The ethical nightmare of the web, is that no one has to account or care for those they decide to marginalise – they are invisible.

In effect the vast majority of educators online are on one hand providing free digital content, and on the other buy back the same digital content from people who often are full of shit and couldn’t have an orginal idea if their career depended on it. And no one thinks this is strange – being an expert remixer is the key to success. I think it’s nuts, like explaining why we’re still paying 10k for someone to fly into Australia an yell at us in front of a PowerPoint in exactly the kind of mode and manner research has proven over decades is the most ineffective way of teaching or convincing anyone of anything.

So here are 3 reasons we’re avoiding IT success (me included).

1. Educators dissecting, diluting and obsessing about the state of education and the future is a delusional belief that our doing so somehow increases education value in wider society. (see rule 1).

2. Rhetoric is repeated over and over and despite the expansion of the Internet, and what is could be – people are rarely presented with well-rounded and knowledgeable information on a variety of topics. Popular experts don’t collaborate – they make money by convincing most people they are experts, yet often have a stunningly narrow repertoire. (see rule 2).

3. Most people are treated as passers by, digital consumers or free labour (not equals). They end up on digital welfare, feeding off the scraps of free information in the hope they’ll be included.(see rule 3).

So what’s the solution? You tell me.