What is collaboration?

This seems like a bit of a backpedal, as I’ve already been talking about intra-organisational and inter-organisational collaboration, but here are a few thoughts on what collaboration is.

Collaboration is a relationship formed between two organisations (inter-organisational collaboration) or between two individuals or departments within an organisation (intra-organisational collaboration) for the purposes of gaining collaborative advantage. Examples include alliances, federations, partnerships, cooperatives, franchises, outsourcing, contracting, and many more.

Organisations typically collaborate in order to:

  • access another organisation’s resources
  • share risk
  • enjoy increased efficiency
  • obtain better coordination and seamlessness
  • learn from each other.

Collaboration is complex, multi-faceted, and there are no easy routes to success. Alternative ways of addressing problems often lead to opposing kinds of action, or tensions. Collaboration is resource-consuming and should only be considered when the benefits are genuinely worth pursuing.

However, amidst all this negativity is the recognition that people who do have an understanding of the underlying tensions involved in collaboration do actually manage to collaborate!

(Source: Huxham and Vangen, 2005).

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