Introduction and history of collaboration in the workplace

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An Overall View

The term collaboration and its concept has become a keyword in the infrastructure of corporate businesses, small businesses, higher education, and workplaces. "In today's process-driven workplace", as authored by Evan Rosen (2008), "collaboration is king". While remaining in-the-box and old-school traditions are becoming more and more obselete, the out-of-the-box culture of collaboration is being born across the globe.

According to Webster's New Dictionary (2001), the definition of collaboration is the gathering of resources, data, and information, especially in literature.

This combined collection of information and workplace activity constructs a general, specific plan or purpose which is to be executed or produced within the workplace while working with others as a team. The history of collaboration began many centuries ago, long before the B.C. or A.D. eras, where at least two individuals had to communicate in the effort of completing a task, project, or written document. Therefore, collaboration is not a new term, but an enhanced and improved one in the professional workplace.

According to a Scientometric Journal Article, “Studies in scientific collaboration, Part III. Professionalization and the natural history of modern scientific co-authorship” (authors O. deB Beaver and R. Rosen (2005), it is highly stressed and confirmed that there is a need for teams and teamwork in the science of professionalism. This conclusion was based on the author's studies of “the growth of scientific collaboration over the last century” beginning in the era of World War I. Again, it is fair to say that collaboration began long before World War I.

Without doubting, there are always two sides to every story. There is always a head and a tail to each coin. So is it with collaboration. There are advantages and disadvantages, comparison and contrast, in collaboration and the professional workplace.

Trends of Collaboration in the Workplace

Just recently, professional workplace collaboration has become an exciting and profitable phenomena for businesses and organizations whether passive or active. Knowing this, many businesses, companies, organizations, schools, colleges, and universities have found that there are trends that have changed and are continuing to change the framework of businesses. These trends necessitate a wealth of collaboration techniques and a rich interaction among the hierarchy, team members, and personnel. The following are four key trends in collaboration:

  1. Technical (video, voice, e-mail, Facebook,Twitter, etc.)
  2. Economical (obtaining the best at the best price)
  3. Cultural (expectations, innovations, reconcillations, and prompt feedback)
  4. Ordinances (federal, state, and local laws/codes)

Morale and Collaboration in the Workplace

Because of the above trends, the employment market of today is accessible to individuals with talent and skills, no matter their geographical location. It is known that employees on the low-totem pole can nagivate and produce ideas just as if they were in the Csuite and their input is worthy of consideration as well as the individuals who host a multiplicity of talents and skills. Ethics and values are a boost to the morale, and in some cases, global reconcillation is in order for 360-degree success. This promotes an advantage in the morale of the workplace culture and can set the tone of inspiration and innovation.

Methods of Collaboration in the Workplace

There are several methods of collaboration readily at hand that are used to an organization's advantage. For example, at the workplace, a congregate of individuals who are smokers, or individuals that dine together at lunch time, in most cases take advantage of this personal time to conveniently interact and collaborate regardless to job status or position. Everyone in the workplace has the ability to dialogue and communicate at all levels in the workplace if given the opportunity. This is collaboration in the workplace. Other methods are the hardware and software used in the technical area at the workplace. For instance, Microsoft's Groove and SharePoint.

These virtual workspaces can be used by all team members, at each member's convenience whether it be at the same time of collaboration, or independently to share data or information.

Each team member has the option to add to a document already in progress or delete anything within a document that is already in progress. Microsoft Groove has a Chat-Room for convenient collaboration. In addition, e-mail and mobile phones are accessible for great collaboration when team members cannot all be present at the same time. Another great method of collaboration in the workplace is known as Knowledge Management where team members entrust their corporate materials, ideas, and brainstorms, meet new dynamics, and enhance their framework,

It is apparent that workplaces are revisiting their infrastructure to allow for additional physical space (spatial) and the need to collaborate their employees from different departments like Human Resources, Marketing, Accounting, and other administrative positions to work together at intervals for organizational productivity.

Cultural Elements of Collaboration in the Workplace

Globally, collaboration is entering doors in the workplace to produce more knowledge, to acquire a comprehension of other cultures, and to ascertain different modes of thinking processes. According to Rosen (2008), there are ten cultural elements present in the workplace when collaboration takes precedence. Rosen's theory is listed below:

Trust -

In order to collaborate freely, trust must be incorporated in organizational cultures.

Sharing -

 Harboring information and data prevents the free flow of ideas that can be generated for the greater good of the workplace.

Goals -

 Agreement on goals at the beginning of a project fosters good sharing habits within the workplace.

Innovation -

A tool to harness collaboration whereby the two (collaboration and innovation) work hand-in-glove.

Environment -

The workplace itself (including the physical space) will make a great impact on the employees, on collaboration and on inno- vation.

Chaos -

 Though businesses may be well developed, expect chaos to some degree. If collaboration takes shape amidst the chaos, rich feedback is returned.

Constructism -

Constructive collaboration surfaces as viewpoints are shared. Candidness/truth will diminish the differences when collaborating one with another. Communication - Communicating between employees in the workplace regardless to job levels can nurture collaboration. Collaboration is communication.

Community -

A sense of community must be fostered for collaboration to be effective in the workplace.

Values -

Collaboration produces ethics or values which lessens the productivity-time, fosters a newer employment market, expedites the resolution of a crisis, and creates an inflation in company sales and progress. Productivity and Collaboration in the Workplace

The above cultural elements also promotes productivity in the workplace as well. Productivity makes the organization successful. The disadvantages surface when team members are not fulfilling their partial tasks to make the project whole and complete.

The following are case examples:

Baseline has published an article in their October 2009 Issue which expresses that “collaboration is key to business”. As an example, the article is based on the inner-workings of Cisco Systems and their IT organization. “Cisco's ultimate goal is to enable growth and capabilities ranging from faster time, to market, to identity management. Cisco's top two initiatives are virtualization and collaboration.” Virtual collaboration provides great productivity in the workplace.

Cisco's Senior-Vice President stated that “it would be impossible to successfully implement virtualization or collaboration technologies without a rigorous architectural approach to IT management which focuses solely on results, and not technology.” (Special note was made of the use of data centers and web application servers that are widely used in this organization for their processes of collaboration.)

Additionally, collaboration helps to form committees, boards, and councils in an organization or workplace as an advantage.

The Chicago Tribune dated October 13, 2008 provides another example of workplace collaboration and productivity. In their article, it is cited that “collaboration is a common thread”. The Chicago Tribune uses the Chicago transportation system to dicipher collaboration in the workplace and show how collaboration improves the workplace tactics and conduct.

Yet, as another example of collaboration, The Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces have collaborated recently (Top Small Workplace, 2009). After collaboration, these two organizations identified and selected 15 exceptional small business organizations in the United States who were recognized for their stellar employee-oriented work environments. Along with great productivity and success, these 15 companies have great perks and benefit packages which include flexibility, stock exchanges, for-fee services to include oil changes, dry cleaning, massages, haircuts, and more for the members of their workplace

Diversity of Team Members in Workplace Collaboration

One final issue in workplace collaboration is the diversity of the team members. Each individual has his or her own ethical guideline. However, in the workplace, there must be a happy medium in the area of diversity where reconcillation must take place. The bottom line in collaboration is "bringing it all together" in a workplace for the greater good of the organization, benefiting personnel and clientele as well.

The Future of Collaboration in the Workplace

The advantages and disadvantages of collaboration in the workplace have been discussed throughout this document. “The Future of Work”, authored by Tom Malone, states that “as communications costs fall, it becomes possible and desirable for many more people and organizations to collaborate in ways that would never have been feasible before”. Yes, the future of collaboration in the workplace is at an all-time high.

The examples provided in this document are proof that collaboration is advantageous in the professional, business world. Yes, with collaboration, organizations are able to overcome issues, obstacles, and challenges that they meet. The wonderful perks and benefit packages are great innovations for continuous, future collaboration. Organizations can expect a low turn-over in personnel or staff and their employees will, consequently, stabilize their career and work tenure in one work environment. Nate L. Root, a Forrester Analyst and co-author of “Evaluating Collaboration Platforms: Picking the Right Solution For Synchronous and Asynchronous Collaboration” (2004), rendered his support to the future of collaboration in the workplace when he wrote “It's undeniable that electronic communication and collaboration between companies is increasing… collaboration technology is on a screaming increase, and has been since the dotcom boom.”


Collaboration is not a new concept today. Individuals have been collaborating for centuries for various intent and purposes. However, the concept of collaboration has been researched, studied, and rebirthed in the scientific field of business and professionalism. Collaboration is now a phenomenal and major asset in the framework of an organization. The hierarchy, Csuite, teams, supervisors, and lay personnel in any organization perform the tool of collaboration, also known as communication, on a daily routine in the workplace to meet the status quo of productivity and success.

Many methods of collaboration like computer applications, software, and hardware are used in the workplace to communicate, share and collect data for a required task that has been delegated and assigned.

Collaboration can be done one-on-one or collectively via conferences, mobile phones, and electronic workspaces to meet the deadline of an assigned activity, task, or project. The professional doors of collaboration are opened today to businesses and organizations, enhancing their organizational framework and infrastructure, with the assurance of great productivity, high employee morale, and future success. “Collaboration is King” (Rosen 2008).