Difference Between Collaboration and Cooperation

Difference Between Collaboration and Cooperation

In your professional or academic life, you may have worked as part of a team or with external teams on joint projects to create new ideas and results, foster understanding or move things forward more quickly and efficiently. You may have encountered the words collaboration and cooperation, and often many people have understood that they mean the same thing.

They are not identical, and when they are used interchangeably, as is often the case, their true meaning often becomes blurred. So what is the difference between collaboration and cooperation?

In this article, we will explore the difference between collaboration and cooperation. Understanding the difference between the two is essential to help you function successfully in the modern world of business, education or the creative arts, and could make the difference between simple mediocrity and excellence.

Definition of Collaboration

Collaboration is an action undertaken by two or more parties to work together to achieve a common vision or goal. Individuals give up their own goals and priorities to achieve the shared goal or vision, resulting in a positive outcome that belongs to all.

The definition of collaboration includes people pooling their collective resources, negotiating common goals and tactically sharing information to achieve a common goal. Collaboration is usually a long-term effort, often leading to unprecedented results. 

So what does the difference between collaboration and cooperation look like in practice? Observe an orchestra playing a musical ensemble on stage. There is only one musical scenario followed by each musician, even if they each play a different instrument. The orchestra thus produces a melodious masterpiece that is appreciated by all; it is an excellent example of a collaborative effort.

Definition of Cooperation

Cooperation is the action of working with others doing one’s own part to achieve a successful, shared but independent result, vision or goal. Each team member individually solves their assigned segment of the overall problem to ensure a positive outcome.

The definition of cooperation includes informing other team members about what needs to be done, how they should carry out their tasks, and how they should help each other or ask for the help they need to achieve a satisfactory result.

So, what does the difference between cooperation and collaboration look like in real life? Imagine a departmental team within an organization working on reporting on a project. Cooperation requires them to work cordially together to create the report and collect information from individual team members, each with their own professional abilities and job descriptions. When each team member meets to compile his or her part, the team submits a complete report to management. Cooperation requires that team members actively listen to each other and understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and actions.

Collaboration vs Cooperation Comparison Table

One may ask by looking at our summary below, which of the following is a key difference between collaboration and cooperation? The two have various differences, but a key difference is the way team members interact with each other. In collaboration, teamwork is mainly interdependent, a truly collective effort, whereas, in cooperation, teamwork is independent, and mainly a connecting effort.

Other key differences are as follows:

Basis of ComparisonCollaborationCooperation
Quick DefinitionWorking together collectively to achieve a single shared vision or goal. Working together by doing one’s own section in the project to achieve a successful common but independent outcome.
Nature of Work Team or group members need to be actively engaged for collaboration to be successful. As long as individuals have goodwill towards each other and towards the project, and give their consent if necessary, their commitment can be passive and cooperation will always be fruitful.
Individual Goals and Workload Goals and workload are collectively shared by the team. Objectives and workload are assigned and distributed among the people in the team.
Communication and Information SharingCollaboration requires frequent and tactical sharing of information. Cooperation can be successful with infrequent, ad hoc sharing of information.
Power and Resources SharingTeams share power and resources with other external teams Power and resources remain within internal teams
Risk-Reward RatioCollaboration is a high risk, high reward activity Cooperation is a low risk, low reward activity
Commitment, Reporting, and AccountabilityCommitment, accountability and reporting lines are unclear. These considerations are first given to the network and external teams before being given to one’s own team. Commitment and responsibility, including reporting lines, are given first to its own team and second to external teams and the network.
Authorship of Ideas Generated by a group or team as an entity, which has shared authorship. Generated by individuals within the group and leads to individual authorship.
Period UndertakenUsually a long-term effort Usually a short-term effort

Conclusion of the Main Difference Between Collaboration vs Cooperation

In a variety of situations, whether in education, business or the creative arts, we find that people who embrace both collaboration and cooperation are the most successful. To be successful, one must understand the difference between collaboration vs. cooperation.

Collaboration, if effective, can help build powerful organizational structures because all participants base their efforts on a collective principle. By progressing within a collective and collaborative group, participants can shape their own identity and ultimately be able to lead the group in their own interest and in the common interest of the group.

However, cooperation is a connecting activity that focuses on self-organization. It does not require a guide, and one can choose when and how to join or leave the group. In any case, the work of cooperation continues successfully regardless of whether or not a person participates in the teamwork.

It should be noted that collaboration without cooperation can lead to group thinking, resulting in poor results and a lack of innovation. However, cooperation without collaboration can lead to disunity and overall unsuccessful results. Ideas and results developed and achieved in the presence of cooperation and collaboration are likely to lead to better working methods, success and ground-breaking innovations.