What is collaboration?

Collaboration feels like one of those words we all understand. We have no problem using it in a sentence, and when people say it, there’s no hesitation. We get it.

But do we really?

Is collaboration as simple and straightforward as it seems?

The answer may surprise you. Collaboration is and always will be the act of working together, but as society evolves, so does the way we collaborate.

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive definition, as well as address some common questions and misconceptions about the collaborative process.

What is collaboration?

Collaboration is the act of two or more people working together to achieve a shared goal.

In the workplace, collaboration is the sharing of ideas, tasks, or skills with the aim of developing processes, brainstorming ideas, or completing projects.

It may surprise you to learn that there are many types of collaboration:

1. Team collaboration

The traditional form of collaboration, team collaboration is the oldest and most common. The signature quality of team collaboration is that everyone knows everyone. Each person has their own unique skills that contribute to the team’s greater goal.

2. Social collaboration

A relatively new form of collaboration where groups of people can collaborate in real-time, social collaboration works across a digital platform that allows teams to pool their collective expertise rather than relying on their own skills.

monday.com is collaboration software that accelerates the collaborative process by providing a centralized platform for teams to share documents, tasks, and reports. Each function in monday.com allows teams to communicate and collaborate in real-time to help each other meet common goals.

Try out our team task tracker template to see social collaboration in action:

Social collaboration is easier with monday.com's team task tracker template

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3. Cross-functional collaboration

With team collaboration, everyone knows each other. Cross-functional is the opposite. It’s what happens when various department teams or verticals join forces to achieve a common goal for the greater organization.

4. Contextual collaboration

In the realm of work operating systems (OS) like monday.com, contextual collaboration brings together all the digital tools you use together on one platform. Monday.com, for example, is feature-rich by itself and full of collaborative tools, but thanks to its 40+ integrations, you get an even greater level of productivity and efficiency.

5. Virtual collaboration

As globalization accelerates, so does the capacity for virtual collaboration. People no longer just work locally, they collaborate with people around the world. Video conferencing, cloud-based software, and channel-based messaging platforms make it easier than ever to share knowledge and human resources globally.

6. Community collaboration

The concept of community collaboration revolves around the idea of sharing. Ideally, teams wouldn’t work in silos hoarding their information and resources. Instead, they’d freely share their knowledge with the entire community, so everyone rises together.

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What’s the difference between communication and collaboration?

No matter what anyone tells you, communication and collaboration are not synonymous. They’re complimentary, but they have unique definitions and uses in the workplace.

The bottom line is this…

Communication is all about sharing knowledge, while collaboration is putting that information to good use.

Communication can exist by itself without collaboration, but without communication, collaboration is impossible. An example of communication is calling an organization to inquire about possible job opportunities. If, after you get the job, you join your new team in a brain-storming session to generate ideas for your first project, then you’d be collaborating.

Why is collaboration so important?

The benefits of collaboration to an organization are immense.

Let’s break them down:

Strengthening problem-solving skills

Let’s say you’re working on a project, and you get stuck. You’ve tried everything you can think of, and you’re all out of ideas. What’s your next move?

It’s unlikely that you give up entirely. No, you go get help. You ask someone to come brainstorm potential solutions. You collaborate until the problem is solved. Collaboration shouldn’t be the last resort. It’s better off baked into the way your team works day-to-day.

Inspiring self-analysis

That level of self-awareness helps create greater competency and efficiency, especially as it evolves over long periods of time.

Creating new communication lines

Cross-collaboration with people from other departments or verticals opens up opportunities like never before. As bonds strengthen and ideas flow more naturally, your teams will connect the dots between potential project breakthroughs and revolutionary business ideas.

Boosting team morale

An organization that creates a collaborative atmosphere will naturally cause employees to trust and like each other more. Mostly because connections matter to people. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.

We want to work with people we trust and feel trusted at the same time. Bonus points if people respect our point of view and show empathy throughout the collaborative process.

Increasing operational efficiency

Effective collaboration is far more than just a tool for boosting efficiency. It’s a signpost that says, “It’s okay to ask for help.”

For example, monday.com’s collaboration software (through our project tracker template) makes it easier than ever to ask for help by marking a status as “stuck:”

Asking for help when your stuck feels effortless with our project tracker template.

That signals to your teammates that you could use an extra set of eyes or perhaps a whiteboard session to break through to the other side.

And you can create an automation which automatically sends a notification to a project lead whenever anybody’s status changes to “stuck,” so they know to follow up.

Collaboration guides your team to greatness by promoting the sharing of ideas. It makes workloads easier to bear, cuts through the noise to find creative solutions, and keeps us on our toes when it matters most. In short, collaboration makes work feel easier, which helps us get more done in less time.

Breaking through barriers

Arguably the greatest part of collaboration is working with people with unique perspectives and skills. There’s a lot we can do alone, but it’s astounding to see what people can do when they put their heads together and share their vast knowledge toward achieving common goals.

Common collaboration related questions answered

Now that you see how deep the collaboration rabbit hole goes, let’s take a look at some of the internet’s frequently asked questions:

How do you create a working environment with strong collaboration?

It’s an environment that makes people feel comfortable asking for help or sharing ideas.

If that doesn’t sound like your organization, then the best thing you can do is start at the top and work down. Invest in ways to get team leaders and managers to buy in (and show them why they should).

Do that enough, and little-by-little you’ll see collaboration trickle down and embrace collaboration. While you’re at it, create some core values centered around collaboration and share them widely.

Here’s an example:

As an organization, we pledge to…

  • Set SMART goals and objectives
  • Clearly communicate our intentions
  • Strive to be open-minded and empathetic
  • Listen carefully and compromise
  • Overcome obstacles without assigning blame
  • Celebrate effective collaboration

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Is organizational collaboration only between employees?

It’s fair to think that when the term collaboration comes up because employee collaboration is so important. Yet, collaboration reaches beyond employees to both operations and customers.

Here’s a closer look:

  • Employee collaboration provides a sense of purpose that boosts productivity and satisfaction. It enables the pooling of knowledge and skills to achieve greater outcomes.
  • Operational collaboration speeds up processes and facilitates transparency. When people, processes, and resources work together, you get greater efficiency.
  • Customer collaboration derives from the sensational results that effective employee and operational collaboration provides. When everything works like clockwork, your customer’s expectations are often met or even exceeded.

How can people collaborate while working from home?

Teams can collaborate from home with the right technology stack. According to the The State of Project Management 2020 Report, 25% of people surveyed report not having the right technology to enable team collaboration on informal projects, even through this makes up 20% of work time.

They need communication tools so they can stay on the same page. They’ll also need a way to store files and share them in real-time. Most importantly, they need a workspace where they can share ideas, status updates, and deliverables and get help or feedback.

monday.com has all those features and a nifty whiteboard in which your team can easily collaborate — in real-time — to conduct training, research, ideation, and more.

Virtual whiteboards make it easy for remote teams to collaborate

Why is collaboration so difficult?

Teams who collaborate have the opportunity to learn from each other. They share in both success, failure, and workflow. They also get the added benefit of understanding someone else’s perspective — to hear their unique priorities, pain points, and world view.

It’s easy to lose sight of that perspective when you’re working in a silo. If you stay in your comfort zone, stay skeptical of others, and believe your way is the only way, then you get none of those aforementioned benefits.

Too often, another way teams get collaboration wrong is by relying on outdated methodologies or technology. It’s akin to still faxing in an age dominated by email and instant messaging. Collaborating without the right stack of tools just feels wrong.

As technology and society evolve, companies should invest in software that makes collaboration feel effortless. That makes it easy to share ideas and get help.

What’s the best virtual collaboration tool?

Markets & Markets believes the online collaboration market will hit nearly $60 billion so naturally there’s quite a bit of competition out there.

So, who do we believe is the best?

It’s no surprise that monday.com believes that monday.com is the best virtual collaboration tool.

What’s not to love?

  • Our whiteboards make you feel like you’re side-by-side with your team.
  • File storage makes sure everyone has access to the latest version at the right time.
  • Task-based communication gets you the help you need precisely where you need it.
  • Chat and video conferencing integrations give you that over-the-shoulder guidance.
  • Status updates make it feel comfortable to raise your hand when you’re stuck.

The collaboration tools are immense, and so are all the other features that set your project up for success.

Bring out the best in your team with monday.com. It could be that crucial first step to creating an atmosphere of collaboration.

What are you waiting for?

Try one of our customizable project templates now.

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