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What is the Difference Between Collaboration and Teamwork?

Sometimes we can tend to think of certain concepts as similar even though they may actually be quite different. One of the reasons for this is when the outcome or product of two different concepts seem identical. Since the outcome is the same, we assume that the process itself is the same. A common example of this phenomenon involves the concepts of collaboration and teamwork. These two concepts are often interchanged, as though they meant the very same thing. The fact of the matter is that while the end product of teamwork and collaboration may be similar, the two concepts themselves are quite different. Understanding the differences between the two will go a long way to applying them each to greater effect.


In Collaboration, Everyone is Part of One

Collaboration is often seen as teamwork even though in the strictest sense it is not. The reason for this mistake is the fact that collaboration requires multiple people working together on a particular task or subject. While there is an element of teamwork implied, the fact is that collaboration involves what can be called a collective rather than a team. Rather than having a group of individuals performing individual tasks to accomplish a goal you have a group of individuals forming a collective mind in order to solve a problem or produce a desired outcome. Thus, collaboration is the art of forming a single mind from a group of individual minds, much like an ant colony or a beehive. Just as there is no sense of individualism in an ant colony or a beehive, so too, collaboration fuses the group into a single entity, indiscernible from each other.


In Team Work, Everyone has Distinct Role

A team, in contrast, is a group of individuals who maintain their individual qualities. While the goal of a team is usually a shared goal, the tasks of the team often involve individual effort. The best way to illustrate this is with sports. A baseball team is just what its name implies—a team. That said, it is a team of individuals performing individual tasks. Each member of the team has their own skills and strengths. When the individual members of the team perform their function well the team benefits as a whole. A good pitcher will help his team win a game, just as a good batter will. While each contributes equally, you would never imagine swapping the one for the other. In other words, you wouldn’t put the first base player on the pitcher’s mound, nor would you rely on the pitcher to hit a home run. Each player has their place and their job to do.


Team Building Emphasizes on Team Work

Thus, while teamwork is a combined effort, it still requires individuals to perform individual tasks. The importance of teamwork is that each individual’s job is unique, yet critical to the outcome. Team building exercises can help to underscore this reality, demonstrating that the skill sets of each individual are critical to the success of the team overall. By focusing on this aspect of a team effort, you can help to build respect for each and every team member and the function they serve. This will create a strong bond between your employees, helping them to pull together to achieve the shared goal at hand.

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