Collaboration is a buzzword that gets thrown around quite a bit. People talk about it as if everyone knows what it is and how to do it. However, collaboration can be a tricky thing with lots of nuances. It’s not always simple to figure out exactly what someone means when they say they want to collaborate or how collaboration will work in any given situation.

Collaboration can mean different things to different people, and that can make it tricky to get started. The purpose of this blog post is to explore the various meanings of collaboration, offer some examples of how collaboration works in practice, and provide some tips on how you might be able to use collaborative efforts effectively in your own organization or workplace.

What Is Collaboration? Collaboration is an interdependent relationship that is focused on achieving a shared goal. It involves working together with others to combine individual skills and expertise to create something that is bigger than any one person could achieve on their own. A key aspect of collaboration is that it is voluntary. People come together because they want to — not because they’re forced to.

They do it because they believe that their combined efforts will create something that is better than what any one person could create on their own. Collaboration can happen among people who work in the same organization or across organizations. Sometimes different organizations may come together to work on a joint project or to solve a common problem that none of them could solve on their own.

Understanding the Different Meanings of Collaboration There are different ways to understand collaboration. When we start exploring what collaboration is, it’s helpful to understand the different meanings of collaboration so that you can more clearly identify situations where collaboration might be useful.

Cooperative effort One definition of collaboration is cooperative effort. This is when people come together to work on a common project or task that requires the special expertise of each person involved. The goal is to achieve something that is greater than the sum of its parts: a project that is beyond what any single person involved could achieve. For example, a business might be seeking volunteers to translate its website into various other languages. Everyone involved in the project is contributing their time freely, and they’re working together to achieve a shared goal.

Partnership Another definition of collaboration is a partnership. This is when people come together to share resources or skills so that each person involved has access to greater resources or expertise than they could have access to on their own. For example, an organization might team up with another organization to share the expertise of a specialized consultant who wouldn’t be able to serve both organizations’ needs on their own.

Joint effort The third definition of collaboration is a joint effort. This is when two or more organizations come together to work on a project or solve a problem that none of them could solve on their own. For example, an organization might work with the government to respond to a disaster. Or two organizations might work together to share resources so that they can provide better services to the people they serve.

Partnership and joint effort are similar, but with one key distinction. When people enter into a partnership, they do so with the understanding that it’s a temporary arrangement that will come to an end at some point. When people come together for joint effort, there’s a different expectation: The relationship is expected to be ongoing.

Collaboration Can Be Effective in Organizational Change Collaboration can be a powerful tool when organizations are trying to bring about organizational change. When people come together to work on bringing about change, they have a number of options for how they might go about it. One option is to mandate the change. A manager might tell their employees that they need to change their behavior in a certain way. This is certainly one option: People who are being mandated to change their behaviors don’t have much choice in the matter.

They’ll have to do it, but they may resent it. They may resent the manager who mandates change and they may resent their peers who are also being mandated to change. Another option is to incentivize the change. A manager might offer their employees a bonus if they change their behavior in a certain way. This can also work, but it has some potential downsides: If employees know that the change won’t last, they may not feel motivated to make it stick. If the bonus isn’t substantial enough, employees may resent the fact that their bonus hinges on their ability to change how they work. Collaboration Can Help Organizations Find Expertise Collaboration can be helpful when organizations need expertise that is outside the organization itself.

This is especially true for organizations that are new and may not have the expertise that they need right now. A company that wants to produce a new product may not have the expertise within the organization to know how they should design and produce the product. When they collaborate with an outside organization that has the expertise they need, they can bring that expertise into their organization. Similarly, an organization may want to undertake a new project or experiment with a new idea, but they may not have the expertise that they need to do it effectively. Collaborating with an outside organization can help organizations bring the expertise they need into their own organization.

Collaborative Research Is Key to Finding The Right Tools Organizations often need to find the right tools for their employees to use. Ideally, they want to find the right tools for their employees’ specific needs, but sometimes it’s hard to know which tools might fit best. When organizations collaborate with other organizations that use the tools that they’re thinking of recommending to their employees, they can get a better sense of which tools work best and which ones may not be the best fit for their employees. Collaborative research can help organizations find the right tools for their employees’ specific needs.

Collaboration Can Help Companies Find Out What Their Audience Wants Organizations often want to understand what their customers want. When they’re trying to understand their audience, they have a couple of options. One option is to ask customers what they want. Although this can be helpful, it’s not always reliable. Customers may not always be able to accurately express what they need or what they want. They may also not always be completely honest because they don’t want to offend the company the survey is coming from.

Another option is to observe customers as they use the products that the company offers. The company can use this information to determine what customers like about their products and what they don’t like about them. When companies collaborate with other organizations that are working with their customers, they can sometimes bring that customer insight into their own organization and use it to improve their products.

Bottom line

Collaboration is a powerful tool when organizations, teams, and individuals want to achieve something that is greater than what any one person could achieve on their own. When people come together to work on a shared goal, they can bring new knowledge, skills, and perspectives into their group. This can help them achieve their goal more effectively and help their group be stronger as a result.