Collaboration versus Teamwork

In his Valence Theory of Organizations, Mark Federman identified “several specific forms of valence relationships that are enacted by two or more people when they come together to do almost anything; these are economic, social-psychological, identity, knowledge, and ecological.”

Recently Mark has posted on why bureaucracy and collaboration are mutually exclusive, showing the limited nature of Teamwork

… in comparison to the more balanced aspect of Collaboration which brings all valence relationships into play.

As much as organisations advertise for “team players”, what would be best are workers who can truly collaborate by connecting to each other in a more balanced manner with all the facets of their lives. Of course that would mean that the blunt stick of economic consequences would have less overall significance.

9 Responses to “Collaboration versus Teamwork”

  1. graham watt

    I’m happy to hear teamwork trashed for collaboration. To me, teamwork is 15 rafting people yahooing and flailing mightily with paddles as the roaring river itself decides their fate and they all end up going down the drain. Collaboration, on the other hand, means they decide instead to poke holes in the raft and spend the day in a quiet place, adding to each other’s experiences.

  2. Jon Husband

    Well, yeah .. to all three of Mark’s concepts, your post and graham’s comment.

    Funny, and you may not believe it, but the graphic is a dead ringer for thoughts that have been floating around in my head for the last couple of months.

  3. Harold

    For the most part I make these short posts so that I can grab these pieces when I’m working on a larger project. I put this together because Mark’s writing relates to wirearchy and some other things I’m mulling over. I had to get it posted before I forgot it and now it’s easily retrievable. Your comments help confirm that there is something to it. Thanks.

  4. Godzhesas

    I think that “workers who can collaborate” can never overcome a TEAM. Like it was written in the good old book “Peopleware” – it’s people that matters, and in projects people need to form a team, no team – no successful project 🙂

  5. Jon Husband

    Michael Schrage of MIT wrote a book about a decade ago, during the first wave of collaboration software, titled “No More Teams – Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration”.

    I suspect that we will come, over time, to re-define what is a team when today one can be a member of various groups of (different) people working on different projects, whether freelance or inside a given organization.

    The environment is to continuously-flowing and constantly-changing for the older notion of a team in a relatively steady-state environment to sustain long term effectiveness .. IMO.

  6. Ron Lubensky

    From Mark, I get that teamwork puts high responsibility on autonomous individuals for complete and accurate input. Collaboration demands less about independent, competent input but rather a commitment to the emergence of a collective output. Collaboration acknowledges complexity and unpredictability. It also recognises that contributors are fallible humans who draw on all life aspects rather than bureaucratic automatons only concerned with economics and rationality.
    The distinction is political. Blogged here.

  7. Dawn Poulos

    It also recognises that contributors are fallible humans who draw on all life aspects rather than bureaucratic automatons only concerned with economics and rationality. …”

    I never meet these people, the ones who are only concerned with economics and rationality. A strategy based on assuming that everyone’s like that, experience to the contrary, seems bound to run into trouble.


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