These two words are so tightly knit and similar, that a lot of people have difficulties in differentiating between the two, to the point where people think they are collaborating, but all they are doing is simply communication. We saw a radical and an overnight shift towards remote working and virtual offices, due to the pandemic that hit all of humanity. And due to that reason, a lot of people had to reimagine the way they work. It is an outcome of this shift that people are now realising that communication and collaboration are two very different things. Let's break down these concepts and realise why it is important for all of us to know the difference between the two.
Understanding the Difference
Communication is basically imparting or exchange of information using one or multiple mediums. Communication can be one way, two way, verbal, write, formal, informal. But when we talk about collaboration, it is something entirely different. Even though collaboration can be explained as a two way communication, it is so much more than that.
Collaboration can be best defined as people coming together to achieve a specific objective, or to create something together. When multiple people participate and put in their knowledge and efforts towards achieving a simple goal, collaboration takes place.
To make it simpler, Collaboration is a machine consisting of multiple pieces working in harmony to give an output, and communication is one of the most essential pieces of that machine.
The purpose of communicating can be anything, but the purpose for collaborating is always specific. It cannot be stated enough how important it is to have effective and seamless communication in a collaboration process to ensure that the collaboration is done right and effectively.
Communication and Collaboration in a Workplace
As per microsoft, 75 percent of employees rate collaboration and teamwork as crucial to their success. This just goes to show how important it is to collaborate in an effective way. The pandemic made us rethink the concept of collaboration and made us act accordingly.
Communications are usually and traditionally done through text messages, emails, whatsapp, phone and video calls. Although these were not primarily invented for collaboration specific communications, people somehow manage to work with them. This doesn't mean that these apps get the work done as effectively as they should have. For example, people create task lists, to do lists and other targets on WhatsApp. This is an inefficient way of task management as there is information loss, one may not find the task list when required, or even totally forget about the existence of it.
If we talk about Slack, which is a communication tool at the heart of it, as it structures communication through channels. However for work management, it provides multiple integrations with other tools which again are not very simple and intuitive.
Most of the collaboration is now done on different collaboration tools and platforms like Jira, Asana, Basecamp, Slack, Gotomeeting, flowdock, etc. These tools serve different group sizes, different levels of collaborations and different purposes of collaboration. These platforms provide different features like file sharing and task management.
Although these tools make collaboration possible, they sure do have their own limitations. Most of these tools are made by techies, for techies. These tools and platforms usually are not very user friendly, and the learning curve to understand and use them is very steep. Especially in a country like India, where remote working culture has penetrated in a lot of tier 2 and tier 3 cities, it is difficult for the population in those cities to collaborate remotely. Communication being an important element of collaboration is also done remotely, and having to juggle between the two activities and maintaining a smooth flow between the two is difficult and that hampers employee performance.
The line which distinguishes the two processes is blurring out, which means that there is a need and scope of streamlining the two processes in such a way that it makes it easy for the user to communicate and collaborate effectively, ideally without any information loss or wastage of time. And for that to happen, more and more people should have access, ability, and comfort to operate on tools and platforms which help them to communicate and collaborate seamlessly.