I listened to John Maxwell’s daily “Minute with Maxwell” about the difference between cooperation and collaboration. John is a wealth of knowledge, and his insightful wisdom on the difference inspired this blog. When it comes to business how can the delta between cooperation and collaboration be measured in how it effects outcomes?

To provide some context I urge you to take a minute now and listen to John explain the difference. My key take-away is the intent, the inspiration and appreciation spurred by collaboration. To leverage the power of collaboration you need to move beyond simple cooperation. Here are some characteristics that point out the difference.



left-right side characteristic comparison between cooperation and collaboration

If we think of what the COVID pandemic jolted businesses into doing, businesses both cooperated to help each other survive and some collaborated to accelerate positive responses to the disruption. This was the reality both internally with employees and with external customers, suppliers, and communities. The following Gartner quote summarizes how important this is to businesses and their leaders.

“Business leaders have recognized that stronger collaboration across the business will be imperative as it is the only way that organizations can effectively respond to wide-ranging disruptions.” (Source: https://www.gartner.com/doc/reprints?id=1-252KRFJ6&ct=210122&st=sb)

Arrow pointing up with word You may wonder how to move from simple cooperation to more effective collaboration. Hundreds of books have been written on the power of diversity, teams, and effective leadership. It involves all these as well as a greater appreciation for the state of commerce, worldwide cultural maturity, and even particular circumstances in your own business. Here are some ideas that may help you get started.

  • Seek out an advisory firm to help, whether a large firm like Gartner or a smaller firm in your community. Collaborate with them to define and execute a plan designed for your business and organization.
  • Seek the help of a facilitator who can guide a workshop with a cross-section of management and representatives from various levels in your organization. Meet the facilitator to define an agenda that focuses on fostering collaboration in areas where there is an obvious need for change in your business.
  • If you are a larger business who has an HR department or leaders skilled in organizational development, discuss ideas and if needed solicit help from an advisory firm to add some “outside in” ideas.


Picture with text of how to help move your team from cooperation to collaboration

We hope you find the power of collaborating internally and externally provides a significant opportunity over common cooperation.

If you would like to discuss this or ask for our recommendations of some local advisors or facilitators we are happy to talk with you.