For the longest time, I used to think collaboration is same as teamwork and they could both be used inter-changeably. For starters, both stand for “working together”. Also, both involve a bunch of people working together with the intention of getting something done. So, what’s the difference then? Is there really a difference?
Apparently, there is…
Teamwork is an organized division of tasks at hand. It’s when people are structured to work together in a particular manner to accomplish a common goal. This common goal is more important than individual opinions and in most situations, majority counts. The process is a formal one.
Collaboration on the other hand, is a more casual setup. There is no ONE leader. Everyone works in conjunction with another to accomplish a common goal. The process fosters creativity because the goal still needs to be achieved but the onus is on the individual players to share knowledge, understand working patterns and get things to work, while still holding on to individual values and opinions.
Collaboration can sometimes get you better results than a structured team.
So how do you decide which one works for you? Make a call. Assess the risks, look at your end goal, your time-lines and then decide.
Teamwork most likely utilizes proven methods and concepts to fetch results. Structure and discipline will make sure the job gets done on time. But there will most likely be no innovation. If you are trying to come up with something new, go for collaboration. Creative individuals will bring new ideas to the table. The lack of structure may initially account for some additional time to get things moving smoothly, but once the team dynamics are in place, the job will get done, probably much better than what teamwork could have achieved in a similar scenario.
Collaboration today has become fairly straightforward in the workspace given a) people’s familiarity with the concept of social networking and their ability to utilize their networks to do things or get things done; and b)the availability of many social and collaboration tools for enterprises in the market.
Social computing gives us a way to tap into each other and bring the combined talent of the network to solve business challenges.
The catch, however, is that using social computing tools at the workplace requires you to change your mindset about how you do your everyday work: to understand where exactly collaboration and open communication fits in as opposed to the closed avenues of sharing information like emails, memos fliers and files; to utilize the social computing tools to solicit feedback, opinions and inputs from a the larger pool of employees rather than depend on the traditional organizational hierarchy for gathering required data; to accept the fact that none of us is as smart as all of us.
Here’s advice from Sandy Carter, IBM’s VP on how you become a social business:
and here is an example of how CEMEX, a global leader in the building materials industry, went about becoming a social business with the help of IBM social software like Lotus Connections: