Collaborative Capital: Creating Intangible Value: Volume 11


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

This work was partially supported by the Center for Collaborative Organizations, which was formerly The Center for the Study of Work Teams, at The University of North Texas. The change in name reflects our recognition that collaboration occurs at many levels of organization besides the team level. The Center has always considered bridging of the gap between the worlds of research and practice as a primary mission. The success of that bridging is critical for understanding practice and for basing practice on tested theory. The chapters in this book reflect this kind of bridging partnership.

Michael Beyerlein is Director of the Center for Collaborative Organizations ( and Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of North Texas. His research interests include all aspects of collaborative work systems, organization transformation, work stress, creativity/innovation, intangible capital, knowledge management and the learning organization, and complex adaptive systems. He has published in a number of journals and has been a member of the editorial boards for TEAM Magazine, Team Performance Management Journal, and Quality Management Journal. Currently, he is senior editor of the Elsevier annual series of books Advances in Interdisciplinary Studies of Work Teams and the Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer Collaborative Work Systems Series. He has authored or edited 15 books. His most recent are Guiding the Journey to Collaborative Work Systems: A Strategic Design Workbook (2003) and Complex Collaboration (2004). He has been involved in projects at the Center for Collaborative Organizations (formerly, The Center for the Study of Work Teams) with such companies as Boeing, Shell, NCH, AMD, Raytheon, First American Financial, Westinghouse, and Xerox and with government agencies such as Veterans Affairs, DCMAO, EPA, and the City of Denton.

Attention focusing on intangible forms of capital is increasing in both research and practice. Lev and Zambon (2003) write in the introduction of a special issue of the European Accounting Review, “We strongly believe that intangibles are the major drivers of company growth” (p. 597). Intellectual capital seems to have led the way in the conceptual development of intangible values. However, other forms of intangible capital are being defined, including: organizational, human, relationship, social, political, innovation, and collaborative. This volume consists of papers that focus on the latter. We broadly define collaborative capital as the organizational assets that enable people to work together well. It is manifested in such outcomes as increased innovation and creativity, commitment and involvement, flexibility and adaptability, leveraging knowledge, and enhancing learning.

The purpose of this paper is to examine how research teams serve as building blocks for collaboration at a field level, and how these building blocks are assembled by a network of interacting organizations. The field setting is a medical sciences consortium in Australia established to encourage collaborative and entrepreneurial research among government, industry, research centers and university units. This consortium is examined as a case study. The analysis demonstrates how collaboration evolved at three interacting levels: research team, organization and interorganizational field.

The main findings are: (1) Intellectual property (IP) acts as the key orienting agent in this field to align the behavior of various stakeholders and leverage collaborative and entrepreneurial activity. (2) Tensions between the different ways that the commercial and public sector actors value IP serve to structure the interfaces among the consortium, the member organizations and the research teams. (3) The consortium is a key infrastructural element in the creation of collaborative capital in the Australian biotechnology field studied. The main contribution of the study is to highlight the nature of collaborative capital at a field level and begin to explore its implications.

This chapter discusses the personal and organizational risk factors of collaboration and shows the necessity of creating organizational cultures that support collaborative action. Building collaborative capital is presented as a transformative process requiring a shift in individual and collective beliefs and assumptions and new patterns of action and supporting structures that encourage communicative competence and risk taking. Collaboration is viewed through a relational lens, incorporating hermeneutic concepts. A process is offered that begins a cultural change by strengthening communicative relationships among senior leaders. A city government and public utility in a major city in the United States provide examples of actions taken by senior leaders committed to the endeavor of creating cultures of collaboration.

Development of intellectual capital, in conjunction with collaborative capabilities, is particularly important to continuously generating innovation. In the literature to date, the link between collaborative and intellectual capital, although key assets in knowledge-intensive industries, has rarely been investigated. This chapter introduces a model illustrating the interaction between human, intellectual, and structural capital, and their interplay. Several propositions are also derived in view of the need for companies to harness these three types of capital which are integral to implicit knowledge generation and leveraging the dynamic capabilities of the organization. As a consequence, team-based organizational forms are considered to be the most appropriate collaborative pattern for knowledge-intensive industries. This suggests that companies must increasingly focus on building valuable collaborative capital using flexible forms of organization in order to perpetuate successful product innovations.

Collaborative capital, or the capacity to work effectively with others toward shared goals and outcomes, reflects an accumulation of both skills and resources by individuals or groups. Traditionally, these skills and resources represented products of experiences in face-to-face task or interest groups. More recently, reflective of organizational trends to collaborate more often across both geographical and organizational boundaries, these experiences have been mediated by technologies designed to facilitate collaborative work. Often, however, the people using the technologies already know one another and interact face-to-face periodically. In contrast, in this chapter, we focus on a new technology-enabled social form, the multi-day online conference enabled by iCohere, an emerging groupware technology supporting the conference, to examine how collaborative capital might be built in and among previously unacquainted, globally distributed individuals. Using Erickson and Kellogg's notion of “social translucence” we explore the case of one online conference attended by over 600 participants in 50 countries to identify technologic and social infrastructures conducive to the generation of new collaborative capital through participation in virtual spaces. By design, the technology and conference plan replicated common conference experiences conducive to collaborative capital development, but conference attendees also interacted and participated in ways that transcended the possibilities of a face-to-face conference. We anticipate these findings to be interesting for both managers and project team leaders seeking to foster collaborative capital development with the aid of modern communication and collaboration technologies.

Contemporary organizations have realized the importance of creating work environments that energize and sustain collaborative capacity. Nowhere is the need for collaborative capacity more apparent than when business interactions and collaborative work efforts cross country boundaries. Collaborative capacity is the foundation to an organization's key resource, the collaborative capital. Creating a work environment or climate that supports, enhances, and maintains collaborative capacity is essential for achieving high levels of collaborative capital. In this chapter, we review an exploratory, cross-cultural investigation of the work environments that guide organizations (public and private universities) in the United States and in several Asian countries. One hundred and ninety-four staff from a university in the United States and a combined total of 976 individuals from eight universities throughout Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) were asked to assess their organizations’ work environments using the Performance Environmental Perception Scale (PEPS; David Ripley (1998) The development of the performance environment perception scale and its underlying theoretical model. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville). We describe what work environment factors were viewed the same across Eastern and Western cultures, and what factors were viewed differently. Additionally, we present a model of work environment factors that can be used to enhance and sustain collaborative capacity across Eastern and Western cultures.

Given the suggested importance of collaborative capital to team and organizational performance, it is important that we develop a better understanding of potential processes by which it is developed in organizations. This chapter represents an attempt to explore one such process by examining why and how individuals contribute to the creation and maintenance of collaborative capital in the organizations for which they work. Drawing on social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity, it is argued that individuals’ perceived social exchange relationship quality with their coworkers will predict their contributions to collaborative capital. Results of a preliminary empirical examination supporting this prediction are shared and suggestions for future research are offered.

Due to geographic dispersion and reliance on technology-mediated communication, developing collaborative capital can be a challenge in a virtual team. Knowledge sharing is one form of collaborative capital that has been identified as critical to virtual team success. This chapter develops a theoretical model that proposes that shared leadership in virtual teams is positively related to knowledge sharing between team members, and that this relationship will be partially mediated by trust. The model also shows that a team's degree of reliance on technology-mediated communication will moderate the relationships in the model.

Based on a four-factor leadership typology, this theoretical chapter proposes four alternative models to investigate how collaborative capital moderates the relationships between leadership and innovation. Beyerlein, Beyerlein, and Kennedy (2004) define collaborative capital as “how well people work together toward shared goals and outcomes.” In this chapter, we focus on empowerment as an important manifestation of collaborative capital. That is, first, empowerment enhances collaboration across vertical hierarchical lines through sharing of decision-making authority. Also, since empowerment is typically implemented as a team form of organizational structure, empowered teams enhance collaboration through the process of decentralized team decision-making. Thus, the accumulation of successful empowerment and the qualities of empowered team member represent the collaborative capital. Specifically, the models suggest that empowerment may function as a partial mediator, or as a moderator, or as both, in the basic relationship between transformational leadership and innovation. In addition, although transformational leadership and empowering leadership elicit different attitudes and behaviors of team members that may facilitate innovation, the interactions between these outcomes will maximize the effects of leadership on innovation. The implications of these observations and the possible directions for future research are discussed.

Intellectual capital (IC) and social capital (SC), as forms of intangible value in organizations, are crucial assets in today's volatile business environment. Efforts to retain and develop these intangibles are becoming more deliberate and disciplined. However, organizations fail to recognize the relationship between organizational distress and the loss and/or reduction of intangible value. The loss of intangible value may potentially impact an organization with equal or greater damage than the loss of more tangible value. IC and SC generate many outcomes beneficial to the individual and the organization. These benefits are reduced when stress of employees becomes excessive and damaging. The relationship between the health of an organization and the degree of impact of distress serves as a lingering threat to organizational financial resources. Managers must build upon the growing knowledge from research and practice to help organizations account for the costs of organizational distress, translate the importance of intangible value into tangible terms, and garner support for developing IC and SC to obtain business objectives. Deliberate and disciplined effort to build collaborative capital can facilitate the growth of IC and SC which minimize the damage of organizational distress.

This chapter examines the fourth kind of intangible capital, which is the capability to transform a heterogeneous aggregate of people, first into a group and then into a team. This is useful both on a macro- and micro-scale. This is shown through the case of people involved in an urban transformation with its endogenous and exogenous complexities. Following the definition of sustainability, people can be divided into three different kinds that use language differently to be understood. Communication happens only on each personal boundary line, which is dynamic, and acts on two levels: the technical and the relational. The presence of a connector, mediator, translator, and negotiator, who has both human and technical training, is essential.

The chapter makes an attempt at hybridization between three relatively separate fields of inquiry: (a) theories and studies of collective intentionality and distributed agency, (b) theories and studies of social capital in organizations, and (c) cultural–historical activity theory. Employees’ collective capacity to create organizational transformations and innovations is becoming a crucially important asset that gives a new, dynamic content to notions of social and collaborative capital. In philosophy, sociology, anthropology and cognitive science, such capacity is conceptualized as distributed agency or collective intentionality. The task of the chapter is to examine the possibility that current changes in work organizations may bring about historically new features of collective intentionality and distributed agency. The understanding of these new features is important if we are to give viable content to the emerging notion of collaborative capital. After a conceptual overview, the chapter will first analyze a fictional example of distributed agency, then findings from the author's fieldwork in health care settings. In conclusion, the chapter will propose the notions of ‘object-oriented interagency’ and ‘collaborative intentionality capital’ as characterizations of important aspects of agency and intentionality currently taking shape in work organizations.

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Book series
Advances in Interdisciplinary Studies of Work Teams
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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