First, let’s define the difference between collaboration and communication.
Basically, there is no collaboration unless two (or more) sides communicate. However, no matter how close and similar these concepts can seem – they are not in any way the same thing.
Even so-called collaboration tools might blur the line between these two concepts. For example, purely sending a message via some platform doesn’t necessarily mean that the sender and receiver are instantly collaborating. The option is most definitely there, but it takes a bit more to move things beyond communication.
The basic definition of communication states:
A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior
While communication has always been a part of everyday work, we have far more options now. Nowadays, we have the luxury and a privilege to choose between email, video chat, instant messenger, social media or voice calls. However, the basic function behind it remains the same – sharing knowledge and previous experience. As people’s skill-sets get increasingly specialized, quality communication is getting more important than ever.
On the other hand, the general definition of collaboration is:
To work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
In a business setting, we usually see this as a process of working together with another person to achieve an end goal, aligning their work and behavior in order to accomplish something of a mutual benefit. And to do that, collaboration must involve active communication within the team.
Why we need to collaborate
Even though all team members working in a company don’t necessarily have to collaborate on every project, we are rapidly moving towards a world where effective collaboration needs to exist in order to achieve satisfactory business results.
- To prioritize problem-solving
The more people on a given project actually collaborate – the easier it gets to catch sight of any potential or existing problems and to offer a greater number of possible solutions. We get to the whys a lot faster if there is open communicating and constructive work happening.
- To bring structure to our work
If we communicate without collaborating, we can risk losing out on long term progress. By actually working together we can make plans, set goals, and determine what our next steps need to be. Just exchanging information isn’t what makes teams successful, transforming that information into future actions is what matters.
- To share our knowledge long term
When working collaboratively, people bring different skill-sets and backgrounds to the table. This is a perfect chance to make it a learning experience through feedback, opinions, and sharing knowledge. Also, mistakes and failures are a great opportunity to gain an understanding of different perspective and this can be extremely valuable for gaining a better sense of a collective workflow.
- To create value, not just dialogue
As we said, transforming information that is communicated into future actions is what matters. Once we know where we’re going and why, we can begin to measure what kind of an impact it has on our overall success and if it in fact is creating any value for our organization.
The role of technology
Innovative tools for both concepts are growing in popularity. Some of them will support the company’s efforts more effectively than others. Before deciding on which way to go, there are some basic questions every organization should ask itself:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- How complex is our collaboration?
- Are we looking for something that’s going to integrate the whole organization or help individual teams work better?
Answering these questions might clarify what we actually need in order to achieve better results. If applied right, tools can change the landscape of communication-collaboration relation. Video and web meetings, mobile and desktop applications, messaging platforms, and business social media networks are helping organizations worldwide to increase efficiency and productivity, while at the same time, they maximize each employee’s contribution
Also, it allows companies to increase the number of ideas presented by and to the community, it simplifies multi-tasking and incorporates the entire spectrum of interpersonal communications while cultivating every team member’s both professional and personal development.
No matter the industry or size of the business, working with some kind of tool designed for successful collaboration – significantly changes and improves the ways of internal communication, getting the most from the employees while making better decisions and creating more strategic plans. What technology also enables is collaboration between geographically allocated teams. Location is no longer an issue.
In the end, we can conclude that – yes, communication is essential for all successful teams. However, only the teams that truly collaborate can expect to keep achieving great results in the long run.