Collaboration is a term that is often used, but not well understood. Definitions of collaboration invoke a number of different concepts, such as cooperation, coordination, and teamwork. As we will point out, these are not complete or equivalent descriptions of collaboration. So, what do we mean when discussing collaboration? In this post, we define collaboration as discrete, objective oriented, and an extension of human behavior.
The term “collaboration” has many analogues; so making a distinction versus similar terms is the first step in discovering a good definition of collaboration. Commonly compared terms are cooperation, coordination, and teamwork, but none of these adequately defines collaboration. For example, cooperation can take place for a short amount of time, and be a transient occurrence. “Cooperation” does not encompass the planning, structure, or authority conveyed by collaboration. “Coordination” has a similar distinction, extending the interaction over a longer period, but the authority and structure remain undefined. “Teamwork” can be more structured than cooperation or coordination, with designated team member responsibilities and objectives, but still lacks the cohesiveness and structural aspects of collaboration. Just because there is a team, working individually at an objective, “teamwork” does not necessarily mean that people will be working directly with one another to achieve the goal. In contrast, collaboration is a discrete term that entails an organization, structure, authority, and the duration of the interaction.
A fundamental aspect of collaboration is the objective orientation. When examining the unique aspects of collaboration, the distinguishing factor is the process of achieving a shared objective. Collaboration is a coordinated process over a period of time, which adapts and is modified to aid in the completion of the overall goal. This process occurs through sharing resources, giving and receiving directions, and team members working in harmony to accomplish a shared objective.
Defining collaboration would be incomplete without discussing human behavior. Collaboration is in part a social interaction. Collaboration occurs when people interact in a coordinated way to complete a shared objective. True collaboration involves a distribution of responsibilities, risks, strengths and weaknesses throughout the group. Since a collaborative effort can involve people with a variety of strengths, weaknesses, and personalities, the management of social dynamics distinguishes collaboration from less descriptive terms like teamwork. Leadership can be distributed throughout the group members or imbued in a central leader, but management of the social dynamics of the group to achieve the objective is the human behavior aspect of collaboration.
While collaboration is a commonly used term, it should not be confused or conflated with similar and frequently interchanged terms, such as cooperation, coordination, and teamwork. A true and discrete collaborative process occurs between people working to achieve a shared objective, and utilizes the dynamics of the social group to operate effectively.
Use inqiri to collaborate with your social group.