Is collaboration and cooperation the same thing? Are they synonymous words?

I believe they are different, and that the differences can be seen by looking at the Adizes map of managing change. (1)

What is “collaboration”?

Collaboration is what a complementary team does: It works together, learning from each other, cross-pollinating.

For collaboration to occur, mutual respect is necessary. And what is “respect”? To rephrase Emanuel Kant, “respect” means to recognize the sovereignty of the other person to think differently. Once respect exists, the condition for learning from each other is established. At that point, if the parties have something to contribute to each other, collaboration might happen.

Notice that I say “might happen,” because for collaboration to be achieved, respect and resourcefulness are necessary conditions, but they are not sufficient. A positive, supportive climate is also necessary for learning and cross-pollination to occur. For that a prescribed, structured, systemic process of deliberation is required. It should ensure that a positive climate for the dynamics of the collaboration can take place.

Cooperation is a totally different thing.

Cooperation is located on the right side of the Adizes map. Its focus is not on decision-making, for which collaboration is necessary, but on implementation of the decision made.

To implement a decision that involves change, a commonality of interests among all the parties necessary for implementation is a must.

Cooperation will occur when there is a common interest, or when a common interest is perceived to exist in the long run, which requires both faith and trust.

As we can see, for collaboration, respect is called for. For cooperation, trust is called for.

Trust and respect, collaboration and cooperation, are necessary for managing change without destructive conflict, i.e., for making effective decisions and implementing them efficiently.

(1)Ichak Adizes: Mastering Change (©Adizes Institute Publications)

Sincerely,

Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes