Are you truly collaborating–or just communicating? There’s a BIG difference…


Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Annekathrin Häse, Director of Strategy & Marketing, MindLink Software

To ensure you’re delivering business value – take a step back for a moment and consider whether you’re actually just communicating, not collaborating. There’s a big difference between the two, and it could be impacting your teams, workplace and most importantly, your bottom line.


Within the IT community itself, there’s been some debate about whether communication is a subset of collaboration or vice versa. One way to answer that, is to ask whether it’s possible to communicate without collaborating, and if it is possible to collaborate without communicating. Well, to begin with:

    1. Communication can either be one-way or two-way
      • One-way – occurs when information is simply disseminated to the audience without any expectation of a response. E.g. people can ‘broadcast’ information into the world, whether it is an update from the CEO on company changes or sharing industry news with colleagues.
      • Two-way – occurs when there is interactive dialogue between parties. People may share ideas or opinions with each other – whether it is talking about the weather, what they watched on TV the previous night, or work related matters.
    2. Communication can be casual or purposeful

In a corporate context, communication can occur either with or without specific business objectives in mind. The earlier example of the CEO sharing industry news with colleagues is an example of one-way communication with a business objective – making employees more knowledgeable of current events. By comparison, an employee sharing a joke, or a video of their cat, is an example of one-way communication, but without a business objective in mind.

  1. The Communication/ Collaboration Grid


Of the four types of communication listed in the diagram above, only two-way communication that is solving specific business objectives can be considered collaboration. That being said, it is also important at this point to note that, you can collaborate without actually communicating with your collaborators (e.g. Wikipedia, the largest online encyclopaedia which allows numerous individuals to contribute and edit millions of articles without ever needing to communicate directly with each another), but only if you have a solid level of initial communication outlining a vision, objectives and clear guidelines to all parties involved.

To be effective and meet particular challenges or a specific objective, collaboration AND communication need to be interlinked. It involves a foundation of both structured and unstructured (i.e. more conversational in type) knowledge which teams or businesses can draw ideas or information from – communication then becomes the channel for conveying this.

In order to foster improved knowledge sharing, it’s critical that businesses have both:

  1. A communication and collaboration strategy to ensure that users fully understand the business objective they are working towards
  2. The technology, universally accessible and fully integrated, to make this happen

This is vital for increasing user adoption and ultimately achieving success.

Want to find out more on collaboration and what tools are available?
Check out Free MindLink Guide ‘An Introduction to Business Critical Collaboration’

About Ali Rehman

@AliRehman81 is the Enterprise Social Marketing Manager at BlackBerry. He is involved in managing social media program for the B2B community. Also focusing on developing engagement and awareness across various social properties. Outside of work he is a massive aviation fan and big supporter of the 'Blue Angels (USN)' aerobatics team.

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