What is it that makes Teamwork effective? There are many words that start with ‘c’ that are often used to define teamwork; ‘collaboration’, ‘communication’, ‘coordination’ and ‘cooperation’; but are they able to be used interchangeably? I don’t think so. They have different meanings but together create effective teamwork.
Collaboration is an aspirational concept that doesn't happen naturally in the workplace but can happen if leadership create an intentional collaborative culture.

collaborative cloud

Collaboration is defined as:

  • To create the action of working with someone to produce something new
  • To work together, especially in a joined intellectual effort.

Cooperation has a different meaning:

  • Joined operation or set of agreed separate actions towards a common goal
  • Assistance or willingness to assist to complete a set of tasks.

You can cooperate without collaborating and the difference in outcomes can be considerable.

collaborative thinking

Communication is important for both collaboration and cooperation and very important to use to coordinate an agreed approach.
A collaborative approach is when a team or small group of people are interdependent, where they cooperate to share information and resources but truly work together, communicating and discussing problems that need to be resolved. That collaborative approach often results in very creative solutions. Collaboration has more than just one person working on a single problem or task, whereas cooperation with another person can have them working on separate tasks to achieve an overall goal. In my mind communication at a greater depth is required to collaborate compared to the level of communication required to simply cooperate.

In the workplace collaboration is much more likely to occur if the company has Collaborative Leaders with a set of skills that differentiate their collaborative style from other leaders. Check out a useful list of skillsets for Collaborative Leadership HERE:  A key takeout from this list is that Collaborative Leadership creates communities where people unite around a common purpose and values to accomplish a shared vision.

collaborative benefits

If you want your workplace to accomplish the shared vision you have for the company and want your staff to be creative problem solvers then maybe it’s time to review how much of a difference a more collaborative culture in your workplace could make. This may require you to investigate how as a director or manager you could upskill yourself with the traits and skill sets required to become a more collaborative leader.

By Pru Bell

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