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Business - Written by on Monday, May 26, 2008 13:53 - 2 Comments

Naumi Haque
Getting past the ‘collaboration’ buzz word

It seems as though we’re labeling every type of cooperative activity as “collaboration” these days. Every company wants to be seen as collaborative and every enterprise solution wants to sell the benefits of collaboration. It’s gotten to the point where everything from Wikipedia, to polling your customers, to a simple conversation between co-workers is being dubbed as “collaboration.”

A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that adopting a broad definition for collaboration can be detrimental and can in fact detract from “true” collaborative efforts. The main focus of the report is the role of trust in enabling collaboration, but the opening section of the paper lays out a valuable framework for understanding the difference between collaboration, cooperation, and coordination.

From the report:

Research shows the term “collaboration” is used to cover the gamut—from projects designed to cut costs, increase efficiency and improve compliance to those involving working with outsiders to develop new products. Most often, collaboration is achieved through the use of early-21st Century technology to enable 20th Century processes. Collaboration is usually focused internally on producing derivatives of, or improvements in, existing activities. It is rarely seen as a total success.

While value can be derived from many different types of co-operative activities, the research suggests companies may be doing themselves a disservice by categorising every such initiative as collaboration.

In fact, the research indicates that companies might benefit from a more disciplined approach to defining and executing a collaboration strategy. Increased rigour could enable organisations to attain greater success and value from collaborative ventures—and better prepare them for the increased challenge of collaborating as the business environment becomes more globalised, communication becomes more virtualised, and the workforce absorbs an increasingly tech-savvy demographic.


According to the study, the top three uses of true collaboration among large enterprises ($10 billion+ revenues) are: improving internal processes, increasing efficiency, and lowering costs. For small- and mid-sized companies (less than $500 million in revenues) the main focus areas of collaborative initiatives are: developing a new product, increasing sales, and improving customer service.

For the complete findings, read “The role of trust in business collaboration.”


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No “i” in team but three different c’s in teamwork « Knowledge Futures
May 28, 2008 14:34

[...] collaboration is a bit deeper than cooperation. So I felt Ok about that view when looking at a recent post over at Wikinomics referring to differences between coordination, cooperation and collaboration. The figure that they [...]

May 31, 2010 4:42

[...] In the context of Web 2.0 buzzwords, perhaps collaboration has become one of the most overused buzzwords of them all. But as we break into Web 3.0 and beyond, it is clear that we must become more [...]

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