What is the Difference
Collaboration operates through a process in which the successful intellectual achievements of one person arouse the intellectual passions and enthusiasms of others. – Alexander von Humboldt
Coordination equates to Governance and enables, facilitates, delegates and holds the Space for the Evolutionary Purpose of an Entity. Coordination, is relationship defining interaction of the Power Structure (seat/s of power) and Power Process (flow/s of power), in short it is the Rules of Engagement. < e.g. centralized, decentralized, cooperation, collaboration.
A frequently asked question in spheres of Human-Centric Organization, those in search of more holistic, balanced and naturally aligned solutions and examples of collective interactions and productivity, is
‘What is the difference between Cooperation and Collaboration?’
A simple Analogy
- proper order or relationship
- balanced and effective interaction of harmonious functioning
- harmonious combination, adjustment or interaction of functioning parts.
more or less active assistance or willingness to assist.
collective power to act; efficacy, influence, or force. Requires Consensus
collective exertion of force, power, or influence; agency. Requires Co-alliance
an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit; joint operation or action.
the combination of persons partaking in activities for purposes of a particular process, course or procedure of productive or industrial activity shared for their joint or mutual benefit.
mutually beneficial but inessential interaction among organisms living in a limited area or community.
to work, to toil, to labour, to endeavour, to strive, to suffer, to produce, one with another
to work, usually willingly, with an enemy.
to work with another or others on a joint project, as in Coalition.
structured methods of collaboration encourages introspection of behaviour and communication
to working with others to do a task, and to achieve shared purpose. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operation, but a deep, collective determination to reach an identical objective): for example, an endeavour that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building corroboration & consent.
Collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralised and egalitarian group.
Differentiating coordination, cooperation, collaboration & teamwork
The differences between these terms can be illustrated by considering these criteria:
Preconditions for success (“must-haves”)
Coordination: Mutual objectives; Need for more than one person to be involved; Understanding of who needs to do what by when.
Cooperation: Common objectives; Need for more than one person to be involved; Mutual trust and respect; Acknowledgment of mutual benefit of working together
Collaboration: Shared objectives; Sense of urgency and commitment; Dynamic process; Sense of belonging; Open communication; Mutual trust and respect; Complementary, diverse skills and knowledge; Intellectual agility
Enablers (additional “nice to haves”)
Coordination: Appropriate tools (see below); Problem resolution mechanism
Cooperation: Frequent consultation and knowledge-sharing between participants; Clear role definitions; Appropriate tools (see below)
Collaboration: Right mix of people; Collaboration skills and practice collaborating; Good facilitator(s); Collaborative ‘Four Practices’ mind-set and other appropriate tools (see below)
Purpose of using this approach
Coordination: Avoid gaps & overlap in individuals’ assigned work
Cooperation: Obtain mutual benefit by sharing or partitioning work
Collaboration: Achieve collective results that the participants would be incapable of accomplishing working alone
Coordination: Efficiently-achieved results meeting objectives
Cooperation: Same as for Coordination, plus savings in time and cost
Collaboration: Same as for Cooperation, plus innovative, extraordinary, breakthrough results, and collective ‘we did that!’ accomplishment
- De/Centralised: Harmonizing tasks, roles and schedules in simple environments and systems
- Cooperation: Solving problems in complicated environments and systems
- Collaboration: Enabling the emergence of understanding and realization of shared visions in complex environments and systems
- De/Centralised: Project to implement off-the-shelf IT application; Traffic flow regulation
- Cooperation: Operating a local community-owned utility or grain elevator; Coping with an epidemic or catastrophe
- Collaboration: Brainstorming to discover a dramatically better way to do something; Jazz or theatrical improvisation; Co-creation
De/Centralised: Project management tools with schedules, roles, critical path (CPM), PERT and GANTT charts; “who will do what by when” action lists
Cooperation: Systems thinking; Analytical tools (root cause analysis etc.)
Collaboration: Appreciative inquiry; Open Space meeting protocols; Four Practices; Conversations; Stories
Degree of interdependence in designing the effort’s work-products
(and need for physical co-location of participants)
- De/Centralised: Minimal
- Cooperation: Considerable
- Collaboration: Substantial
Degree of individual latitude in carrying out the agreed-upon design
- De/Centralisation: Minimal
- Cooperation: Considerable
- Collaboration: Substantial
One way to think of differentiating definitions
De/Centralised: The organization of efforts of different parties to reach a mutual goal. High-stakes issues are not often involved, and parties need not carry a relationship beyond the accomplishment of the task at hand. The goal is static.
Cooperation: A means to an end that involves gains and losses on the part of each participant. This can sometimes foster a competitive environment, and parties need not carry a relationship beyond the accomplishment of the task at hand. The goal is static.
Collaboration: All parties work together and build corroboration and consent to reach a decision or create a product, the result of which benefits all parties. Competition is a nearly-insurmountable roadblock to collaboration, and the relationship among parties must continue beyond the accomplishment of the task in order to assure its viability. The goal is dynamic.
Where do teams, partnerships, think-tanks, open-source and joint ventures fit in this schema?
The general definition of a team is an interdependent group, which suggests that collaborative groups are teams, and cooperative groups may or may not be. Partnerships and joint ventures are both primarily cooperative undertakings; whose objectives evolve over time. Open-source developments can run the gamut among all types of undertaking. So theoretically can think-tanks, though in reality much think-tank work is solitary and not really collaborative. Even the work of scientists on major international projects is substantially individual, with a lot more coordination and cooperation than true collaboration.
“Collaboration should involve passionate disagreement” – Linda A. Hill, Greg Bandeau, Emily Truelove and Kent Lineback1
Hopefully this helps in shining some light on the nuances and differences of the terms, and highlights that all forms of coordination have their merit and are equally important to incorporate in a Human Centric Organization. What you may have discovered in the process also, is that you will require a robust Decision Framework to act as guide in identifying when to use which method, and a comprehensive Conflict Resolution Process to enable the consolidation of the various coordination approaches.
- “Collective Genius” THE JUNE 2014 ISSUE: Havard Business Review
- “Community vs. Social Network” 06-06-2010 – EDITED Lithium Science of Social Blog
- “How Do People Become Connected?” 06-06-2010 – EDITED Lithium Science of Social Blog
- “From Weak Ties to Strong Ties” 06-06-2010 – EDITED Lithium Science of Social Blog
- “What’s the flavor of your collaboration?”