Coffee Machines, Supply Robots and Big Company Collaboration. Ethiopian Style.

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Capgemini (formerly Ernst & Young Consulting) has claimed the now-nearly commodity'ized title of "The Collaborative Business Experience." Although as an organization this size, their collaborative efforts are debatable, their CTO's knowledge of collaboration is not. He gets it more than almost anyone pondering their ideas on the worldwide web. He had the wisdom to re-post one of his articles again:

"A hundred years ago this question would never have arisen, the ideas that there was a neat segregation between work and leisure was an alien concept. A skilled man such as a blacksmith lived the life a blacksmith working when work was available. Move forward a decade or so and our blacksmith started to do some work for a local man who wanted to build and sell cars, each car was roughly the same, but certainly not built in a standardised way out of interchangeable components. It took Henry Ford to create the production line and in so doing create standardisation in work and the concept of fixed working times. By accident perhaps this change in the means of product introduced a lot of other changes that changed most people’s way of live."

READ the full article.

He highlights an important aspect of life and collaboration. In big companies where millions of us work, we have fixed working times, fixed office cubes/environments, and automated everything. We can't take a break to go to a stationary store to pick up distinctive letterhead, we have to use the supply machine with our 9 digit company ID, not our name. If we want coffee and social 'water cooler' time, we have to use the 45-second automated Flavia machine. We can learn something from history and even from third world countries. The photo below is an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. Everyday, colleagues take 'significant' time out of their afternoon for the ritual.

Photo by jspenceruncProblem:

We are one step removed from the social side of success.


+ Establish a social communication ritual. If it involves coffee (or tea, or Diet Coke...) make it significant and time consuming and sociable.

+ Make it during work hours and have it last at least 1/2 hour.

+ Outsource repetitive tasks. Most computers have at least one automator. On a Mac, it is called 'Automator', on a PC, a popular version is 'Workspace Macro Pro Automation.'

+ Outsource other work to a developing country.

+ Use social web based collaboration tools to increase communication, albeit virtual to enhance eventual face-time collaboration.