Buzzword: Collaboration – What is collaboration?

The word “collaboration” gets tossed around a lot these days – especially when it comes to how you work.

But what exactly is collaboration?

Loosely defined, collaboration is the process of working with others to achieve a common goal.  It doesn’t happen in a meeting and it’s different than teamwork.

The “camel” as described in Teknion’s CoCreate literature illustrates a common misconception about collaboration – that it is merely “design by committee,” where random input without unifying vision results in a poor solution.  Although the drawing is labeled “horse,” its parts clearly add up to a camel, a creature less graceful and swift.  While it is true that design by committee tends to yield either generic results or needless complexity, it is not the same thing as collaboration.  In a collaborative enterprise, each person enhances the creative capacity of others by sharing information, resources, and skills.

The goal of collaboration is innovation – whether it is to create a new product, craft a brand identity, define organizational systems or enhance operational initiatives.  Collaboration can occur between people from different departments or even from different organizations and can take multiple verbal, visual, and active forms: talking, showing, messaging, and co-creating.

Collaboration is something that should be a part of the work day, but not what the day is made up of entirely. It must be balanced with “head’s down” and focused work. By creating an office environment that allows people to effectively work in both capacities, you are promoting a creative and productive work environment. Below are examples of layouts that will support collaboration and help create balance in your office.