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What’s the Difference Between Collaboration and Teamwork?

Posted by EddiePrentice on September 13, 2017

What’s the difference between collaboration and teamwork? I hadn’t really thought about that much until an email popped in to my inbox from Higher Logic pointing to a blog post on the topic.

The author, Molly Talbert, explains the difference by saying that with teams everybody has defined roles and generally sticks to them. With collaboration, those lines are blurred and people drift out of their siloes. Why does this matter? The answer to that question is that technology has opened up the possibility of teams with hundreds of members rather than just ten or twenty, many of whom will never meet face to face.

Online communities enable teams to draw on individuals’ unique skill sets to create ideas and find solutions. As Talbert says, “Since everyone can have access to the same discussions, documents and resource library, online communities give each team member the space to do what they do best while remaining mindful of what the other members are doing.”

However, online communities cannot succeed as anarchies. If you want to achieve anything worthwhile you need to adopt the same principles and disciplines you apply in every other aspect of organisational life. To enable collaboration to thrive, Talbert’s advice is to address four key considerations as you develop your community:

1. Shared purpose and goals

2. Guidelines for your community and for collaboration

3. Leadership involvement validates the community

4. Document sharing platform

Talbert’s conclusion is that “a culture of collaboration is one in which sharing and connecting happens regularly without much effort or thought. This then becomes the norm, increasing the value and overall satisfaction of getting things done for the team.”

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