collaboration vs. cooperation

In the business world, the words “collaboration” and “cooperation” are commonly used interchangeably, without regard to their unique meanings. Look at any job description, and you’re sure to see both words carelessly scattered throughout. The confusion surrounding collaboration vs. cooperation makes them seem like nothing but meaningless buzzwords. Perhaps if we all cooperate—and even collaborate—we can rescue these words from abuse.

It is true that whether you use cooperation or collaboration, you’re generally describing a situation where one person or group works with another. Both words deal with involvement in a task, but they refer to very different ways of engaging with the task.

Cooperation: Assistance or Compliance

Cooperation refers to actions performed to help achieve a goal. Cooperating parties need not share the same goal. For instance, a coworker might ask for information she needs to complete her project. In this case, you don’t have a personal stake in your coworker’s project, but should you provide the requested information, your help enables her to achieve her goal. Here, you actively cooperate by helping your coworker.

You can also use cooperation to indicate compliance toward achieving a goal. When discussing a large project from one department, your CEO might ask for everyone’s cooperation. She’s not asking for everyone’s direct involvement in the project, but she certainly is asking that everyone be open to helping—or at least not hindering—the project’s process. Here, you passively cooperate by not objecting to or raising issues with the project.

Collaboration: Investment and Engagement

While cooperation can occur actively or passively and may not always be driven by a shared goal, collaboration requires active and simultaneous involvement from all parties working toward a singular goal.

For example, if you and your coworker make up the team working on a project, the two of you will likely get together to plan and generate original ideas. You both have a shared goal of completing the project, you both have an equal stake in the project’s success, and you both share the tasks required to complete it. Sure, you may need the cooperation of another employee or department, but in the end, only the two of you—as collaborators—can claim ownership of the project.

Collaborators are all fully on board with a project and the values behind it. Collaborators aren’t limited by the possibility of criticism, as all ideas are shared in order to find the one that best serves the project.

Ultimately, when mulling over collaboration vs. cooperation, you must consider the type of engagement from the parties involved in the task. While cooperation can occur by simply going with the flow, collaboration requires a dedicated investment.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

En Dash

Aw, That Damn Dash: What’s the Difference Between En and Em Dashes?

Jul 21, 2017 in Grammar

Perhaps the most confused and misunderstood of punctuation marks in English is the dash—particularly the en and em dashes. You’ve probably heard about them, but…

nauseous vs. nauseated

A Potentially Nauseating Grammar Question: Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Jul 19, 2018 in Grammar

  If you’re not feeling well, are you feeling nauseous or nauseated? The nauseous vs. nauseated issue is often confusing because of how each word’s…

Faze or Phase

English Grammar 101: Faze vs. Phase

May 30, 2013 in Grammar

What’s that you say? You’re not fazed with the difference between phase and faze? Well, you ought to be! Faze vs. phase...which is right? These words…

Subscribe to Our Blog

Subscribe via RSS