“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Coordination vs. Collaboration

Recently I’ve been made aware of different ways of thinking about “collaboration”. It kinda took me for surprise be specially given the geo-social contexts, but there is no ignoring it.

What I learned as two completely different activities some use the same word for or more correctly use the term for one that I use for the other without having a disguising term for the other.

Collaboration–are 2 or more people working to achieve a common goal. The activities can be done together or separately, but usually the fence between activities is fluid and dynamic.

Coordination – is again 2 or more people working to achieve a common goal. However, the activities are siloed either into small distinct groups or to individuals. Only when pieces are “ready” are their individual pieces brought together and coordinated to fit into a new whole.

For me this is more than a subtle difference and definitely not semantic, because I’m more concerned with the behaviors and outcomes.

In my model of collaboration the team works in unity. The ability for everyone to have impact on the whole in a meaningful way at the moment when decisions are being made and when problem identification is most required is greater.

It requires both discipline and trust but doesn’t have nearly as many bottlenecks through the process and greatly decreases the possibility for time & resource damaging adjustments.

This is particularly important when working on dynamic complex systems. Systems whose parts all intersect each other or have linked relationships require a more collaborative approach because we can’t wait till the moment of unit integration for problem discovery. Insights earlier into problem designs & implementations are cheaper to adjust than later on.

When you use a coordination system you create opaqueness in your team. You create distrust because fear of “toe stepping” becomes a point of vigilance and this a distraction. Further you create a system of delayed insights.

Using a collaborative system, however, creates transparency and engenders team trust while creating opportunities for early insights into systemic problem framing.

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  • http://twitter.com/uXbd Brian Durkin

    You create distrust because fear of “toe stepping”… I think you also create accountability issues. I didn’t want to express my ideas for fear of going against the team or the common goal. You end up with complacency and not originality or inovation. 

  • http://davemalouf.com/ Dave malouf

    Brian, that’s a great point. 
    I think anything that slows down or blocks team member’s ability to communicate clearly and freely will hurt innovation, creativity, and design quality in general.


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