What Collaboration Can Learn From Malaria

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Think like a disease; spread collaboration like a mosquito!


The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has discovered that malaria developed as an interspecies disease transfer. Meaning that it bounces between animals just like SARS, Swine Flu and Aids... except that it kills 1 million people a year!

Why is this significant? Because the deadliest disease on earth spreads by various types of contact. In other words, collaboration is an interspecies disease transfer as well. It is contagious, it jumps around from person to person, sometimes directly, sometimes by an interceding action or organism.

If you sit at a desk with a blackberry at a meeting, everyone else will. If you publicly put it away and focus on the discussion - everyone else will as well.

The WHO (World Health Organization) and other organizations track disease spread to help stop it. Are you tracking collaboration and work effectiveness to help spread it?  If you're sick of speaking over your coworkers keyboard clicks, maybe you should try becoming a mosquito in your organization! has done some research on how the following companies share information: AXA, Agilent Technologies, American Electric Power, BT, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Sprint Nextel Corporation, Sun Microsystems and many more.

They discovered that information is typically shared through existing hierarchical and departmental structure and protocol.  This often makes it difficult to ensure the information always gets to the people who need it - information sharing needs to be organized around how people use it.

Many other conclusions are drawn such as the impact of underground efforts, self policing, giving up power, business drivers etc. The impact of social features and tool functionality can't be lost either. Check out our list of software tools to help you succeed.

You can read a full exec summary here here. Or by the whole thing from the Nielson Norman Group for $298.