Participatory culture: the power of collaboration

Participatory culture: the power of collaboration

From a world in which few produce media and many consume, the last decade has seen a fast-paced move towards one in which each participant has a more active stake in the culture that is produced. The role digital technologies play in our daily life is changing how the world works, affecting our relationships, educational practices, creative processes, and even democratic citizenship.

This means new rules, a different game. Internet citizens now understand the enormous power of collective influence to get what they want, when they want and how they want it. Millennials – those born between the late 90s and early 2000s – were the first to embrace the change, and seize the ability to share media content in powerful new ways. Both a cause and product of this new online environment, a typical Millennial is more tolerant, educated and well-connected, and they like to do things their own way. They are less inclined to take orders and more into problem solving through collaborative interaction – live and online.

Alongside this in the workplace, many companies are gradually leaving behind their old-fashioned corporate structures, embracing the effects of these changes. Harnessing the power of networks is falling to management at every level, with a growing impetus to foster an ongoing, open, collaborative culture that facilitates freedom of expression and “entrepreneurial” spirit. Increasingly, companies are tearing down the walls (both physical and metaphorical) between employees, opening up space for dialogue, and allowing them to work together in a way that suits them rather than in a prescribed manner or quantity.

Since I joined AECOM’s Strategy Plus team in Spain nearly a year ago, I have enjoyed experiencing this “participatory culture”. For example, our i-breaks (innovation breaks) – a weekly 30-minute session where random team members share new trends, e.g. in technology, sustainability, business initiatives. Every member is free to contribute when ready, and what they contribute is always valued. This community of ideas provides a strong incentive for creative expression and active participation, positively affecting the output of our work.

Here’s another example; accompanied by our client, Spanish developer GMP, some AECOM colleagues from around the world (including me) got together in Madrid for a learning event hosted by the Strategy Plus team. Within a 24-hour timeframe, three teams were challenged to produce three proposals for the future of an iconic building – to turn it into a landmark site. One of these focused on aspirational office space, another on a high-spec technological site, and the third on a top-quality mixed-use space.

Every idea was considered, from each and every team member, for the final delivery of each proposal, enhancing artistic expression and team engagement. The result of sharing knowledge and ideas between the diverse team members was incredibly beneficial in delivering creative solutions, giving a holistic view of the information for faster and better decision making. The event also enabled us to build and strengthen powerful and durable relationships with colleagues around the globe.

It’s time to create a brighter future. I strongly believe that shifting corporate culture towards advanced collaboration plays to the strengths of the incoming workforce, and fosters a more interactive, creative workforce that is engaged and motivated, meaning a project delivery of any size can be handled more efficiently and effectively. A great example of this from amongst our clients would be Sony Music’s Headquarters in Madrid, now an integrated, flexible space for artists and staff to enjoy (pictured above). This new approach has increased the volume of Sony Music’s visitors while fostering closer relationships with their clients and label support teams.

Is your company ready to embrace the change?

 

Alvaro AgerAlvaro Ager is part of the Communications team at AECOM’s Strategy Plus practice in Madrid.

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