Collaboration is about people working together and completing shared processes. This is where technology fits in, but not all of these processes are technological.

“Collaboration” is a targeted, team-based activity. Social relationship and other social software can help to drastically improve collaboration, but you can’t lump all the possible features and activities into that one term. And collaboration is about people’s interaction with each other as much as about the tools we use.

When someone says you’ve got to get better at collaboration, there are several questions “Who exactly needs to get better at collaboration?” and, “How do they need to get better at collaboration?” and, “On what work do they need to improve their collaboration?” We have many useful words at our disposal and social relationship can improve not just collaboration, but communication, cooperation, coordination, idea-sharing, knowledge sharing and more.

Let’s work together to be clearer about what collaboration is, what the business value of better collaboration is, and what the full arrangement of changes are that can lead to better collaboration.

Finally… purpose. This is where a lot of the misunderstanding around collaboration stems. If people are working together but have no shared goals, they are “cooperating,” not “collaborating.” Cooperation is usually much more lightweight than collaboration and often has less focused goals.