What are the Technology Capabilities that Enable Collaboration?


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Over the past few years collaborative platforms have evolved quite a bit. It’s important for us to consider what makes these collaborative tools what they are. In other words, “what are the capabilities that collaborative tools have now that we didn’t have years ago?” In 2006 Andrew McAfee developed an acronym, SLATES, to help explain what the key capabilities were of emergent collaboration solutions. Not long after than, Dion Hinchcliffe added to the acronym which then became FLATNESSES. I just wanted to review these here as a reference for anyone that is having these conversations at their workplace. Keep in mind that just a few years ago many of that collaboration platforms that companies use today didn’t exist. So the underlying technologies or capabilities that spell out FLATNESSES are:

  • Freeform– The ability to input into a blank slate and format/layout/design as the user desires, such as this wiki (free from restrictions)
  • Links– Link relevant content together or people, allow people to link to and point to content, allows users to build a structure
  • Authorship– The ability for individuals and/or groups to author, shift to being the collectively owned and constantly updated and interlinked work of many
  • Tagging– The ability to categorize and group content together based on tags that we assign to content
  • Network Oriented– web oriented and addressable (access via the web and has a URL that can be pointed to)
  • Extensions– Suggestions and recommendations that extend categorization and pattern matching, for example when using Netflix if you watch a movie it recommends something else to you that might like automatically.
  • Search– The ability to find people and information through keyword or tag searches
  • Social– The ability for users to have profiles and to connect with one other, start discussions and communicate in a non hierarchical and transparent way
  • Emergence– Allows for the discoverability of people, information, ideas and content. For example if an employee has an idea that he shared internally and other employees vote on it or “like it” which allows it to emerge to the top and get noticed/discovered
  • Signals– The ability to subscribe to content or people so that users get notified when something is relevant for them, simple example is a blog RSS feed or subscribing to someones status updates.
I think there two things not included in the above which should be added:
  • Platform- The ability to leverage the platform as a base to build upon or to integrate into (the concept of the “front door” to the enterprise.)
  • Gamification- Allows gaming concepts and ideas to be leveraged to help create desired behaviors (such as status, badges, employee peer recognition, and rewards)

I’m not really one for acronyms but I suppose PGFLATNESSES makes sense. I think these things encompass the capabilities that collaboration platforms have evolved to having today.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. At this point, collaboration has little to do with technology, and much more to do with people. No features of a technology will change people’s willingness or unwillingness to collaborate, IHMO.

    Tech is a tool, and is constantly changing. What doesn’t change so fast or so “well” is people. Which is why so much throwing of technology at problems doesn’t work, or makes things worse.



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