Collaboration and cooperation are not synonyms. Collaborative teams have a common goal that requires the strengths of all involved parties. This goal is more specific than a company-wide objective. Cooperation is much simpler. If you’re pleasantly supporting other individuals’ or teams’ goals, you’re cooperating with them. Collaboration generally requires cooperation; cooperation does not necessarily mean a project is collaborative. However, some corporate cultures fail to acknowledge the key differences between these two practices.
One practice is not necessarily better than the other. Different goals, circumstances, and scenarios call for collaboration or cooperation—or both. Yet, in order to be truly innovative and bring products to market quickly, collaboration is key. It’s essential for engineering, IP, marketing, and leadership teams to understand the difference between collaboration and cooperation so that they can implement them effectively.
Encouraging cross-team collaboration can unlock innovative ideas more quickly, giving your organization a competitive advantage. This sounds like a no-brainer, but putting collaboration into practice may be more difficult than it appears. The first step to a more collaborative culture is examining what roadblocks have inhibited teamwork in the past. Removing these barriers to collaboration allows teams to work toward a common goal without institutional obstacles.
Build a Team
Collaboration does not necessarily mean all hands on deck. You’re not preparing dinner, but the danger of “too many cooks in the kitchen” should be considered. Depending on the project at hand, you may need multiple engineers with different specialties, or someone from marketing as well as sales. However, not everyone who will be working on the project needs to be involved in cross-team communication or decision making.
Perhaps you have a single project manager or other point of contact to ensure everyone involved is aware of all the moving parts that collaboration requires. This individual should not be the only person other team members are communicating with. Meetings, whether in person or virtual, should include representatives from each department involved in the project. This way, problem solving can happen in real time (rather than through a single point of contact) as project elements impact one another.
Collaboration is very difficult—if not impossible—without a common goal. Clearly defining project goals, as well as individual tasks and overall timeline, gives everyone involved an unambiguous idea of what is required and expected. Without this structure, it’s hard to complete the project at hand effectively or measure progress toward an end goal, such as product improvement, patented innovation, or another competitive advantage.
Follow a Process
In order to reach defined end goals, there must be a process that considers ongoing communication, incremental milestones, and other elements essential to collaboration. Having a template for these steps makes them repeatable for collaboration across disciplines.
Manage with AI
Collaboration takes time. There are additional communication and processes that aren’t necessary when working within your own team. There may also be barriers to these elements of collaboration, such as departmental jargon or organizational structure. Introducing an AI-based tool designed to eliminate these challenges, such as IP.com’s IQ Ideas Plus™, streamlines the communication and processes required to bring an innovation to market.