Book Pick: Collaboration & Decision-making

Physical & Symbolic Collaboration

Excerpt from Enterprise Architecture Fundamentals, available on:


Organizations are symbolic systems, combining authority structures and collaboration mechanisms. Assuming that the former is embodied in the latter, the objective is to determine how collaboration can enhance collective knowledge and decision-making. On that account, a primary distinction should be made between three levels of collaboration:

  • Personal collaboration is carried out between identified individuals, in person or through communication channels.
  • Functional collaborations are personal collaborations carried out within socially- defined contexts (e.g., a committee) or objectives (e.g., a project team).
  • Organizational (or institutional) collaborations are carried out between collective entities through representatives and documents.

As conclusively set forth by psychologist Robin Dunbar (cf. bibliography), personal and group collaborations correspond to human cognitive levels; one is set for around 10 trusted personal contacts, and the other, for around 150 untested social ones. Arguably not by chance, those numbers broadly square with empirical studies of personal and network clusters in professional and social contexts.

From a knowledge perspective, the cognitive levels of collaboration should be aligned with individual or collective reasoning and judgment capabilities. From a decision-making perspective, they should be aligned with the personal and functional levels of accountability.

The integrated systems and knowledge architectures described in chapter 9 can then ensure a clear functional autonomy between judgment, to be carried out at the organizational level, and observation and reasoning, supported by systems.


(From Chapter 10)