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Discovery & User Experience

ConFab 2015 Talk: Collaboration in a New Landscape, by Lisa Welchman

After watching Lisa Welchman’s talk from ConFab 2015 (a content strategist conference held annually) on Youtube, there were a few important points that I took away. The gist of Welchman’s talk is that rethinking the way that information is shared and presented can help a department or organization.  She mentioned that content strategists are faced with a problem of having a ton of content and not knowing what it all is and where it all is. She posits that this issue is only going to become increasingly important as new technologies such as the Internet of Things become more prevalent, generating vast amounts of data that is then translated into content for consumption.

Welchman talks about ways that content strategists can face these issues of not knowing what content exists and lack of structure to the content that is being generated by imposing a standards-based framework to content. There are four steps that she outlines which can help in this process:

  1. Identify who is working on your team and what they are doing. This seems like a logical first step in applying standards but I think it’s also important to consider that in doing this, it is also important to not exacerbate the “silo” structure of an organization. Although it’s important to know who you’re working with and their roles, it’s also worth considering that people outside of your team can be helpful on certain projects.
  2. Along those lines, the first org charts had the boss at the bottom, disseminating information to lower employees, who were the branches. This organization has over time been flipped, with the boss now at the top and other employees passing their information up to the boss.
  3.  Welchman offers a solution to this hierarchical organization, which is to move from a hierarchy to an object-oriented team. This involves a different organization than the typical hierarchy, which places performance indicators and known metrics at the center of a kind of atom, with the employees all working towards fulfilling these performance indicators, depicted as electrons surrounding the nucleus of performance indicators. Although matrix management was at one time proven ineffective, Welchman believes that something similar would be more easily implemented today because of the prevalence of computers and the ease of communication. This put more importance on getting things done and less importance on reporting only to immediate superiors.
  4. The last step that Welchman suggested is to think about your department as an information supply chain and to consider what your role is in the chain. This involves getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

Although Welchman lists her steps in the order that she does, I think that they all touch on the same common theme, which is that it is important for a team to not hoard information when they are working together on a project, instead seeing the deliverables and metrics as the most important part of the project and therefore sharing information. She ends the talk by saying that the role of a content strategist is to make information flow.

I think Welchman’s idea of making performance the central goal of a team and encouraging members to collaborate in a more organic way is a great idea. The concepts she presents in her talk are applicable to many organizations, not just content strategists. The concepts of an information supply chain management and object-oriented organization instead of hierarchical organization can conceivably by applied in most situations to streamline a department’s efficiency. I invited you to watch her talk and check out some other talks from ConFab 2015



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