Author Profile Picture

Derek Bishop

Culture Consultancy


Read more from Derek Bishop

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Training for collaboration


What is the difference between teamwork and collaboration? No it’s not a trick question but in many organisations the answer isn’t always straightforward and the reason is quite simple; traditional organisational hierarchies operate largely through the medium of teams.

You know the sort of thing I mean; depending on size the organisation may well be broken down into the accounts team, the HR team, the sales team and so on with each of these teams being subdivided as appropriate. Each team has its leader who oversees the carrying out of a specific task or function and each team leader reports to someone up the line with the ultimate control resting with the executive or boardroom team. Individuals within the team may have their own responsibilities or they may all carry out the same task but either way the work done is with a view to accomplishing a team goal.

So in this context teamwork is merely a way of dividing at responsibilities, breaking down the overall organisational remit into manageable chunks. And there is nothing wrong with that per se; organisations have worked perfectly well with such team structures for generations. And it has to be said that working within a team structure enables people to build up specialisations or to work to their strengths as well as helping the organisation to ensure that necessary functions are performed.

On the negative side team working can lead to the creation of silos alongside a very restricted view of the organisation. And when I start to believe that my process is more important than organisational performance or customer service then it is a short step to multiple negative outcomes.

So where does collaboration come in? Quite simply collaboration requires individuals, or groups of individuals, to work together in order to deliver something greater than the sum of its parts. Yes in collaboration there may be a measure of task allocation but it is done within the context of a whole group understanding of shared aims and values. And collaboration won’t happen simply within the confines of a team or even a single organisation. A true collaborative outlook will draw in any individual or organisation who can contribute to the delivery of a robust solution, and that includes suppliers, researchers, customers and in some instances competitor organisations.

Perhaps more importantly a collaborative setting actively looks to draw on individual talents and experiences. As such it helps to promote diversity as well as being one of the key planks of Next Generation organisations which are looking to differentiate through innovation.

With that in mind let’s look at a few of the training requirements which may need to be put in place within a collaborative structure.

  • Communication. When you work in a closed team everyone knows the jargon and communication tends to be via a series of short statements or instructions. When you start to collaborate outside a closed team structure then good communication skills come into their own. This requires training in the five key communication ideals; namely clear, concise, consistent, continuous and congruent communication. Overarching these are the prime requirements of know your audience, communicate appropriately and check understanding.
  • Listening. Although listening is part of communication it is so important that it requires a section in its own right. Learning to listen, to build an understanding of what is actually being communicated without overlaying it with preconceptions is a skill in itself.
  • Respect. Okay, respect should form part of the normal day-to-day interactions within an organisation but when businesses start to collaborate across departments as well as externally it is worth taking time out to help individuals to build an appreciation of the strengths and talents that others can bring to the mix. This may include delivering a more holistic view of the organisation and its wider sphere of influence.
  • Project planning. Collaboration is by its very nature a more fluid way of working and a measure of project planning skills are therefore essential if goals and deadlines are to be met.

When you are looking to deliver game-changing innovative solutions then one of the first steps is to open up the culture, helping your people to develop collaboration skills and to work in a more fluid way.  Team work can go so far, collaboration will take you much closer to your goal.



One Response

  1. Hi Derek,
    Hi Derek,

    There’s a fascinating research paper that covers the differences between ‘real’ teams and groups that ‘co-act’. ‘Real’ teams deliver all sorts of benefits to the members and the organisation, ‘co-actors’ not so much. The research was carried out in the NHS but I’m sure the findings can be applied more widely.

    The abstract is here:

Author Profile Picture
Derek Bishop


Read more from Derek Bishop

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!