Did you want collaboration, cooperation or coordination with that marketing process?

There is a lot of talk about the need for collaboration in marketing and many are working to develop collaborative relationships within their organisations and across their agency roster.

But when my friend from Anecdote, Shawn Callahan, guest posted here recently on “When should we collaborate?”, he talked about the differences between collaboration, co-operation and co-ordination.

This got me thinking that perhaps many marketers are confusing collaboration with the more functional cooperation and coordination.

Shawn used examples to demonstrate the differences between these including:

  • Coordination is providing the yearly performance review spreadsheet and instructions to assess your staff’s performance.
  • Cooperation is meeting with your team to work out the performance review process.
  • While Collaboration is teaming up with two colleagues to re-conceptualise how performance reviews should be done for maximum impact.

But it was the research by the Economist Intelligence Unit into the importance of trust in collaboration, which I have written about previously, that provided some valuable insight into the differences.

So in the context of a marketer and their agency working together, lets look at how these insights into the differences between Collaboration, Cooperation and Coordination stack up in the two main areas of (i) strategy and concept and (ii) production and implementation.

Strategy and Concept

An area where collaboration seems the natural approach in its purest form is when it is driven by the thought “I wonder if we could….” and is focused on creating new value. But with a buyer / supplier relationship between the marketer and the agencies and with the agencies competing with each other for share of budget, the self interest is not mutual and the value really only accrues to the marketer.

Collaboration requires a high level of trust, and while this can exist between agencies at a personal relationship level, the agencies on most marketer rosters are actually competing for their position on the roster and their share of the market budget and fees.

Production and Implementation

Once the process proceeds to this stage, the underlying thought is a broad range of goals in that “We need to…” which is more cooperation rather than collaboration. But cooperation can succeed even if commitment is uneven and only requires a medium level of trust.

While you could argue that some production and implementation projects could be seen as collaboration, with specialist skills and a high level of commitment, in fact just as often this stage can simply require cooperation and even coordination.

So is it collaboration? Cooperation? Or coordination?

Many marketers talk about the need for collaboration, but as you can see collaboration requires specific circumstances in situations creating mutual value from mutual self interest.

In fact much of the marketing and advertising process does not meet these requirements but in some situations the circumstances required do exist. But that does not mean that more functional cooperation and coordination would not improve the process and outputs for all parties involved.

Based on this distinction, in what situations do you see it is important to collaborate and where is it enough simply to cooperate and coordinate your efforts and those of the various parties involved?

Leave a comment here and let me know.