Of the five types of collaboration, which type do you need?

There is a lot of discussion about collaboration in marketing, media, and advertising. That is because, as a people business, much of the work and processes involved require collaboration between the people involved.

Collaboration is a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions beyond their limited vision of what is possible.

The very definition of collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. It is also two or more people working together to achieve shared goals.

Defining collaboration

The work of a traditional creative team is collaboration. An art director and a copywriter work together to develop a creative solution, concept, or execution to answer the client brief.

But it is also a meeting with a handful of people gathered around a whiteboard; one person is drawing and talking, explaining what they mean, with colleagues adding and suggesting different perspectives and ideas, contributing toward the common objective.

It can be the ubiquitous brainstorming session with groups of people across the organization or from the various agencies and marketing suppliers contributing ideas to solve a particular problem or issue facing marketing.

Or, to solve a particular industry issue, it could be you seeking advice from colleagues of one of the many industry bodies and associations and coming back with fresh new ideas from others in the community.

Today, we can collaborate with a global community by putting a query online and getting answers from people we don’t know. We can forge new alliances beyond the walls of our organizations.

Collaboration is more than groups of people working together as teams and communities. Collaboration generates new ideas and solutions that emerge from the interplay of these perspectives, experiences and knowledge that help us get work done, coming from people inside and outside an organization.

Technology versus Strategy

Increasingly, collaboration types are defined by the technology that enables the process. You will find across the internet the collaboration process described by that technology, such as video collaboration, platform collaboration, cloud collaboration and more. The issue is that these technology solutions will assist in connecting the people in the collaboration process, but they do not define the collaboration strategy or process.

In many cases, these technology-based definitions of collaboration are simply to promote and sell the technology platform. Don’t be mistaken, technology is a terrific enabler supporting the collaboration process, but the type of collaboration will depend on the objective, strategy, participants, timeline, and outcome.

Five Types of Collaboration

Older collaboration models tended to focus on teams and formal, structured collaboration. But there are more options today. Here are five types of collaboration and how you may approach them as an organization.

Team collaboration is typically where the group members are known. There are straightforward tasks, expected roles and responsibilities, and explicit timelines and goals. Members must fulfil their tasks within the stated time to achieve the goal.

Team collaboration often suggests that, while explicit leadership exists, the participants cooperate equally and will receive equal recognition.

An example is a team working to develop a new marketing strategy in four weeks with a defined set of resources. It can occur with external partners, but a clear mandate and defined roles always exist.

Cross-functional collaboration is where teams from various departments, verticals, or disciplines come together to accomplish a common goal for the organization. They may create these partnerships for specific projects, or individuals can seek guidance on a task by asking someone with relevant expertise from another department.

For example, an organization’s product development and marketing teams may collaborate when launching a new product.

Sharing their expertise can help these partners finish their tasks more efficiently, and they may learn something from one another that supports them on future projects.

Social or community collaboration, there is a shared area of interest in social or community collaboration, but the goal is more focused on learning than a specific task. People share and build knowledge rather than complete projects. Members may go to their communities to help solve their problems by asking questions and getting advice, then taking that advice back home to implement in their teams.

An example could be a community of practice interested in the type of marketing mentioned above. A team member may go to their community and ask for examples of past projects.

Social or community collaborations can also give rise to more formalized team collaborations. As people get to know each other, they can identify good fits for team members and draw new talent into their teams.

Network collaboration goes beyond the relationship-centric nature of team and community collaboration. The collaboration starts with an individual action that accrues to the network as individuals contribute or seek something from the network.

Membership and timelines are open and undefined. There are no specific roles. Members most likely do not know all the other members in the network.

This type of collaboration is driven by the social media tools that help us connect and interact online with diverse individuals across distance and time. It is a response to overwhelming information that an individual cannot cope with independently. Therefore, networks become ways for knowledge and information to be captured, filtered and shared.

Strategic Partnerships and alliances are external collaborations when two or more organizations work together toward a common goal. They may require agreements for short or long-term projects.

Some involve binding agreements, establishing each party’s responsibilities in the relationship. These collaborations involve the business partners sharing their knowledge and resources, supplementing what the other doesn’t have or offer.

An example is when an organization forms a strategic alliance to enhance brand awareness. For instance, a retailer may partner with a local coffee company to provide sampling opportunities in-store.

What types of collaboration do you need to be more effective?

We work with many of our clients to optimize and improve their collaboration across all these types, to create high-performing teams