By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Collaboration success -- the Facebook model redux

In a recent FCW column on a new knowledge management system developed for the procurement function at Customs and Border Protection of DHS, I praised the system's developers for allowing participants in communities of practice on the system to post photos and other personal information about themselves. I argued that my own reaction to having such information about Facebook friends whom I otherwise didn't know very well made me psychologically more open to collaborating with them in the future.


Well, as blog readers will know, I'm busy reading a bunch of academic literatures I hadn't read before to develop some new classes for my Kennedy School introductory public management (rebranded as "management and leadership") course. I just came across a paper by a distinguished young social psychologist named Don Moore published in 1999 in the very-respected journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, that finds experimental validation of that intuition. In Moore's experiment, subjects who didn't know each other would be participating in a negotiation. Half the group were provided pictures of their negotiating partners, biographies, and instructions to exchange a few e-mail messages before the negotiation. The other half were just brought in to negotiate with each other cold.


In the experiment, 29 percent of pairs who had had no picture or email interaction failed to reach agreement in the negotiation. By contrast, only 6 percent of pairs with the personal information failed to reach agreement. (The background information about the negotiation issues was the same for both groups.) And the total sum of the value that the parties who reached agreement ended up with -- that is, how successful the negotiation had been in maximizing joint value -- was 18 percent higher in the personalized versus the unpersonalized groups.


Wow! Some Web 2.0 implications here.


What do you think? Post a comment on this blog or send an e-mail to letters@fcw.com (subject: The Lectern) and we will post it for you.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jul 30, 2008 at 12:10 PM


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