It sounds like a silly question—one you might be asked during an employee
It could be a question in a job interview or something your teenager Google
searches at the last minute before debate class.
What does collaboration mean to you?
As corporate communicators, we all know what collaboration is. We also
know—after years of painstaking experience—that collaboration is often more
effective in theory than in practice.
At my company, there are certain people who refuse to work together; still
others’ attempts at collaboration lead to meeting and email overload.
Improve employee engagement metrics by planning fun, collaborative
Put simply, collaboration is working with someone or with others to create
something or achieve some other common goal. Collaboration creates a shared
understanding about a process, a product or a goal.
We should also discuss what collaboration is not:
Collaboration is not coordination.
Coordination is the process of ensuring team members are following the
agreed-to plan of action. Collaboration is, in part, determining the
plan of action.
Collaboration is not cooperation
. If people are working together but have no shared goals, they are
cooperating. For example, when I tell my kids, “Please cooperate and
help me fold this laundry,” I’m really just telling them what to do. If
I say, “I need to finish the laundry. How would you like to help me?”
Collaboration is not delegation.
I’m sure you’ve all worked with leaders who have trouble letting go of
projects. Often, their only step toward collaboration is to pawn off
work on someone else. “I’ve asked Paul to assist me, so he and I are
collaborating.” It’s not collaboration if Paul is doing the work of the
group and has no say in how the work is completed.
This is my favorite:
Collaboration is not copying someone on an email
. How many times has this happened to you? Without conferring with any
stakeholders, one department makes a decision that affects everyone in
the company. They announce the decision and cause an uproar. When asked
why they didn’t communicate about the change or even tell anyone they
were considering the change, the answer often is, “You were copied on
an email months ago.” Collaboration involves active and direct
communication with stakeholders, rather than passive “oh, by the way”
Of course, collaboration involves all these elements: coordination,
cooperation, delegation and communication, but none by itself constitutes
What do you think PR Daily readers? How do these terms apply in
A regular contributor to PR Daily, Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read
more of her work at