Updated: July 18, 2022

Collaboration: Definition, Examples & Tips 

This is the ultimate guide to collaboration.

Collaboration is when two or more individuals or groups work together to achieve an objective by exchanging ideas and thoughts. Nearly every professional function and sector rely on collaboration skills. The concept is crucial because it can help you increase productivity at work, accelerate professional growth, and produce better results in the team.

The purpose of this guide is to help improve team cooperation in the workplace. Many of these ideas overlap with team building best practices.

This article covers:

  • the definition of collaboration
  •  types of collaboration in business
  • successful collaboration examples
  •  tips for collaboration
  • collaboration skills

Here we go!

The definition of collaboration

Collaboration means working with other individuals on a project, task, or idea. The goal of collaboration is to pool ideas and skillsets and achieve results that benefit the group. Communication, interpersonal skills, information sharing, and strategy are all necessary for successful workplace collaboration in offices and remote workplaces.

Collaboration also helps build stronger connections amongst coworkers. When workers collaborate, they are often more successful and efficient than working individually on the same assignments. Efficient collaboration can also boost motivation and engagement levels. Furthermore, brainstorming and exchanging ideas can inspire creativity and unique solutions to complex problems.

Folks tend to associate collaboration with social software. The team’s idea of collaboration might be implementing workplace software and onboarding every employee. Collaboration is a focused team effort. Social software like Trello improves collaboration processes, but these platforms are only tools. Collaboration is essentially about teamwork, just as it is about the tools.

Types of collaboration in business

Below are different types of collaboration in the business world.

1. Team collaboration

Internal collaboration is the most popular type of cooperation. When employees in the same company pool efforts and resources, they utilize different techniques and technology to achieve team or organizational objectives. The manager must determine team goals, assign roles, and supervise members.

Certain techniques and best practices can encourage team collaboration, including:

  • Communicating constantly
  • Boosting team engagement and willingness to collaborate
  • Identifying desirable traits
  • Offering ongoing training and career development
  • Providing the right tools in place

It is possible to categorize team collaboration based on the process and the location. A great example is remote and cloud collaboration. Cloud collaboration and video conferencing solutions have grown more popular in recent years. These solutions help remove silos, enable meetings, and allow sharing and co-editing documents in real-time.

2. Cross-departmental and interdisciplinary

Interdisciplinary collaboration refers to cooperation amongst people from diverse groups, fields, and backgrounds. Both the teams and the individuals who participate in it stand to gain much from the partnership. Diverse thoughts and perspectives have many benefits, including removing prejudice, developing new ideas, and improving customer service and product offers.

Workers’ communication and interpersonal skills improve by regularly conversing and sharing ideas with colleagues from other backgrounds. As a result, workers can gain knowledge and skills to use on future projects and share them with the rest of the company.

Interdisciplinary collaboration works in almost every sector and company. Software development often demands the contribution of several teams, including product management, design, development, and quality assurance. These teams employ best practices, techniques like Scrum or Lean Software Development, and software solutions to keep stakeholders up-to-date and on track with deadlines.

Project management tools are perfect for keeping track of the overall process and distributing responsibilities among team members. Document management and Wikis, for example, serve as knowledge sources and collect relevant project data in a central hub. Managers get a final layer of social interaction via built-in messaging applications and collaboration spaces that promote meetings and allow team members to stay up to speed on the latest news and developments.

Here is a list of popular project management tools.

3. Strategic partnerships

A long-term or short-term arrangement between two or more companies constitutes a strategic alliance. In strategic alliances, firms agree to share their resources and skills to benefit the partnership.

Businesses generally consider this partnership to broaden product offerings, reduce the risks of breaking into new markets, and gain a competitive advantage. Common examples of such alliances include Uber and Spotify, and Starbucks and Barnes & Noble. By leveraging each other’s capabilities and know-how, these companies served their respective consumers better while improving offerings.

To achieve results from such collaborations, the teams from both sides must have a common ground. Businesses often rely on remote work platforms like email, Zoom, and Slack to communicate and collaborate. Digital workplace solutions have been more popular in recent years as firms seek to streamline the exchange of information with their business partners.

4. Community collaboration

Many folks tend to equate cooperation simply with completing projects and fulfilling deadlines. Yet, cooperation may also center around exchanging information and pursuing knowledge. With collaborative communities, individuals may seek assistance and guidance from the groups.

In the healthcare industry, there is an excellent example of collaborative communities. Doctors and other healthcare professionals have built several internal and external communities where they may share information, collaborate, and discover solutions to their problems. These doctors develop the communities on collaborative portals and extranets that are only available to authorized individuals to ensure the security of important data. These portals usually have features like news and chat rooms.

5. Supply chain collaboration

Supply chain cooperation is comparable to strategic partnerships in that it comprises two or more firms with similar goals. The focus of these operations is often on cutting costs, accelerating market entry, and increasing the company’s overall value.

Supply chain collaboration can be vertical or horizontal, depending on whether they are on the same supply chain level (horizontal) or not (vertical). There is currently an increasing need for collaboration, considering supply chains can now include multiple global stakeholders.

The supply chain of a typical retail store is an excellent example of this concept. Products travel from the vendor through various stages of processing and transportation such as distribution centers, warehouses, and shops to reach the ultimate consumer. This operation demands seamless communication to keep everyone on the same page and on track to achieve delivery deadlines.

Successful collaboration examples

Teaching collaboration to your employees might be tricky. Often, the best way to learn is to see the practice in action. The following are examples of successful collaboration in the workplace:

1. Document sharing

The future of collaboration is cloud-based work. Many workers use technology to collaborate, and document-sharing is a powerful tool for working together.

Teams may work on the same documents in real-time using Google Drive and Dropbox Paper. Aside from their main features, several project management software allow real-time collaboration on files. Thanks to document sharing, remote teams can interact as if they were all in the same room. Members can modify content, leave comments, and set access permissions.

2. Organizing and prioritizing tasks

Employees in teams need a way to keep track of each other’s progress on projects. Monday, Trello, and Asana are project management applications that facilitate the creation of processes and tasks for easy cloud-based collaboration.

To get updates on team members’ progress, employees may utilize project management software to make inquiries, exchange files, and locate information. Users can even set up task dependencies so that each member knows their exact roles and deadlines. As a manager, you can also use the project management tool to understand what your team is working on and where there may be problems.

3. Video conferencing

Teams that collaborate effectively often have productive meetings. Collaborative meetings take different forms for different companies. In most meetings, managers can prepare a written agenda and share it with team members ahead of the meeting. Leaders can also assign roles during the video conference, such as timekeeper, taskmaster, and facilitator. Calendly, a cloud-based application, makes scheduling easy.

Here is a list of video conferencing platforms and a guide to virtual meeting etiquette.

4. Peer training

Teams collaborate to achieve success. Therefore, such teams train each other on technology and procedures. A good example is coworkers teaching each other how to use a new project management technology.

For tips on peer training, check out this list of books on mentorship.

5. Visual brainstorming

Collaborative teams often gather to generate new ideas online or in person. Rather than send texts about their ideas, collaborative teams tend to think visually and use tools like digital whiteboards to brainstorm.

Tips for collaboration

Here are a few ideas to improve workplace collaboration.

1. Clearly define your objectives and aims

The first step in directing a project is to establish specific, quantifiable goals and objectives for the team. At the start of the project, every team member should receive an overview and metrics for success.

Transparency fosters mutual respect and encourages new forms of cooperation. Before starting a project, setting clear objectives can help to guarantee that teammates work together to achieve the desired results.

2. Communicate the objectives

Before beginning a collaborative project or assignment, communicate desired outcomes. Be sure to inform your coworkers of your plans and have realistic timeframes for completion. Most importantly, always stay consistent with your promise. In the event of an unforeseen incident that can potentially inhibit the project’s completion according to plan, be sure to pass that message across to teammates.

3. Consider other members’ points of view

Efficient collaboration requires open-mindedness. There will be times when members have conflicting approaches or perspectives to projects. As a team member, you should pay careful attention to your coworkers’ ideas, opinions, and recommendations and react with consideration and respect. No matter how strongly you feel about the direction of the project or the best method of execution, you should also consider your coworkers’ views. The best way to deal with conflicting viewpoints is to find a middle ground.

Here is a list of conflict resolution activities.

4. Avoid blame sharing

People can make mistakes, and challenges might occur when collaborating with others. In these situations, the team must assess the problem carefully without assigning blame. Instead, it is better to work together to discover answers.

For successful collaboration, members need to forgive blunders and take responsibility for their mistakes. This attitude fosters trust in the team and ensures members are comfortable enough to speak out, even after making a mistake.

5. Celebrate accomplishments

Effective collaboration requires setting aside time to acknowledge and celebrate achievements. You should recognize and reward collaborative and individual accomplishments. It is important to celebrate your colleagues’ successes regardless of your role in the team.

Here is a list of virtual celebration ideas.

Collaboration skills

Here is a list of the necessary skills for workplace collaboration.

1. Open-mindedness

Openness and reception to fresh ideas are critical for successful collaboration. Since each team member brings a unique viewpoint and expertise to the project, meetings are likely to stir up discussion and debate. Be sure to acknowledge and consider others’ thoughts without judging them.

2. Communication

Communication is an important skill for successful collaboration. Your employees must express themselves clearly. Different communication approaches can cause occasional obstacles. For example, group speaking may be nerve-wracking for some folks. Being aware of diverse communication styles and adjusting your communication as needed is vital for establishing clear and open communication.

Check out this list of communication books.

3. Debate

A great collaborator needs to know how to effectively argue ideas with coworkers respectfully and constructively without harboring hard feelings. During project team meetings, debate tends to spark creativity. One can expect strong ideas to win out over less-than-stellar suggestions. However, if you are emotionally invested in your position, winning a debate can be challenging.

4. Organization

Successful collaboration requires workload delegation, follow-through on responsibilities, and organization. Organizational ability is crucial to teams. Collaborating with others can teach team members organizational skills. Poor organization often disrupts workflow and causes delays and avoidable mistakes. By learning organizational skills, you can improve your team’s output significantly. Most times, individuals who have to work together on the same project will learn how to better manage their time and workload.

5. Holistic Understanding

The ability to anticipate outcomes is another critical component of collaborating well. Having a common objective or shared purpose and realizing how your efforts fit into that aim is the essence of collaboration. Employees who wish to build their collaborative skills on projects should familiarize themselves with the scope of the project and the responsibilities of each party involved. You can equip yourself with the right resources to complete a project after clearly understanding its goals. Leaders need to articulate the purpose of the project clearly.

6. Adaptability

Projects seldom go according to schedule. When priorities move, barriers appear, and issues arise, the whole endeavor might fall into chaos. Each member might want to throw in the towel and give up, but this is often impossible in the workplace. Collaborators will have to be able to adapt quickly to survive.

When it comes to teamwork, adaptability is a must, yet is a difficult skill to master. Practice and experience are the keys to adapting successfully. When situations go awry or stall due to an unexpected problem, keep your cool and focus on the next steps. It is necessary to avoid instinctive panic and focus on solutions instead.

Conclusion

For team success, you need to understand collaboration, importance, and best practices. Using these suggestions and information, you can improve your communication ability and foster a healthy work atmosphere. You can promote a collaborative work environment by identifying how cooperation may fail and taking steps to prevent negative outcomes.

Proper collaboration means creating a workplace where everyone has a voice, is on the same page, and can contribute their skills and knowledge to the project. If you want to foster a collaborative work environment in your organization, then focus on developing your employees’ cooperation abilities.

Next, check out this list of online collaboration tools and this list of books about teamwork.

We also have a list of goal setting activities for teams.

FAQ: Collaboration

Here are answers to questions about collaboration.

What is the true meaning of collaboration?

Collaboration is when two or more individuals work together toward a common goal.

What are the types of collaboration?

The types of collaboration include team collaboration, cross-departmental and interdisciplinary collaboration, community collaboration, strategic partnerships and alliances, and supply chain collaboration.

What are some tips for collaborating successfully?

Successful collaboration in the company requires a strategic approach. The tips include clear communication, celebrating accomplishments, and setting objectives.

How do you measure collaboration?

Teams tend to measure collaborative abilities by how successfully individuals work together to achieve their goals. Teams can tell they have succeeded when they achieve the intended results.

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Author:

Content Expert at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

LinkedIn Angela Robinson