Collaboration – do we need fresh ideas?

MicroSpeak1At today's College Principals' Meeting, I came across a new word "ideation" - which a colleague used on one of his slides. I'm not sure if it's a 'real' world, or one that sounded good when it went on a slide. It reminded me of my first few months when I joined Microsoft - there were all kinds of acronyms and new words that I had never come across before.

Some it makes perfect sense - when you're trying to describe a complex international business like Microsoft, in a fast moving market like IT, then it is inevitable that you'll end up using acronyms quite a bit, if only to shorten sentences and save breath. But take it one step further - put Microsoft, IT, international AND education into the mix, and you've got a world where whole conversations can be made up entirely of acronyms. And become completely unintelligible to anybody walking past the door of the room!

Which inspired me to another cartoon - perhaps the first of many, many, many that I could do on the same thing.

Anyway, enough about the language barrier.

How did "ideation" get into a discussion?

IdeationIt came up on this slide - which was in the middle of a discussion about how collaboration takes place, and where ICT supports it. Nick Umney's story was about the fact that 'knowledge workers' (there's another one of those Micro-Speak phrases) tend to spend all of their time in the upper quadrants - living in the world of ideas, discussions and acquiring information. And IT people spend their lives the lower quadrants - the processes of documenting and publishing, and the process of driving processes.

Which led to the point that sometimes it is difficult for the IT people to see eye to eye with some of the others within a college, because they tend to be trying to pin down the detail, whereas others may want to be more 'creative' with their thinking

Imagine the downhill spiral the user specification meeting would take if an IT project team had been asked to create a Wiki:

IT Team: "What do you want it to do?"

User: "Publish information to people"

IT Team: "What information do you want to publish and to whom?"

User: "Anything, to anybody"

That's the kind of challenge we're facing today with some of the collaborative technologies available. They could allow all kinds of flexible collaboration, and the boundaries aren't well defined, in fact in many cases we're only scratching the surface of what they can do. Which makes it difficult to get users engaged within the college to use them across the organisation - because each person or team may want to use them in different ways.

What we need are some good role models - some excellent practice which can be held up for others to share, across or between institutions.

Comments (4)

  1. Moohorse says:

    How do you pronounce "ideation"?

  2. Ray Fleming says:

    That’s a good question – because as you try out the versions, the ‘meaning’ you get from it changes.

    We went for "I-de-ashun", which emphasises the doing over the noun

    But if we went for "Idea shun", that would make it altogether different….

  3. Moohorse says:

    Good old has it as "i-dee-a-shun" as well. Seems to be more of a noun there than a verb.


  4. Ray Fleming says:

    Aha, there’s a flaw to my theory that’s it’s a "new word". I’d checked the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary ( and hadn’t checked a US dictionary. At least I know now that Nick didn’t invent a word, but that it had come across the Atlantic.

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