Getting to the Heart of Collaboration

“Collaboration” has become a buzz word that we attach to any process that involves people working together.

This is because we often use collaboration as a synonym for other buzz words that start with C: Cooperation, Communication and Coordination.

In doing so, we miss the most critical element – value creation.

Collaboration describes a process of value creation that our traditional structures of communication and teamwork can’t achieve.

Let’s break it down further and clarify what it really is.

Collaboration has three parts: TEAM, PROCESS, PURPOSE

  1. Two or more people (Team)
  2. Working together (Processes)
  3. Towards shared goals (Purpose)

A group of people using social software together doesn’t, by itself, translate into collaboration.

Technology certainly raises the bar of what is possible, but merely using them does not create value.

I say that because I see schools and organizations struggling to fit social technologies into their culture. Widespread  platform or tool adaption is not enough. There needs to be a unified plan, an understanding of what these tools can and can’t do, and more importantly how people are going to work together.

Great tools available can facilitate such collaboration, but even the best tools cannot guarantee that success.


  • Must be embedded in the culture, where a standard and expectation ethic of contribution flourishes.
  • People in the classroom or community must recognize they are smarter together.
  • People must work “out loud” – sharing is constant.
  • People collectively solve problems.
  • Together, everyone discovers more innovative ways to be successful.

Now this sounds high-tech, but it happens elegantly every day in kindergarten classrooms, where we call it “Show and Tell.”

We learned how to collaborate in the sandbox with friend and strangers alike – now we get to expand the size of the sandbox and extend the invitation for creation to anyone, living anyplace, any time, anywhere.

This is where and how disruption happens – when you invite people into the room and assure them that their contribution will be honored, they choose to contribute. They choose collaboration.

Tap into a crowd if you believe the most valuable person is the crowd. You must innately believe that smartest person in the room is the room – and that the more diverse room, the smarter it gets.

Collaboration requires unrelenting determination and commitment from those who now understand that the desired result can only be achieved together.

People at any level can make an impact, be a leader, break a barrier. No only can they; they must.

We are smarter together.

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    Thanks Angela for defining the word collaboration in such a simplified and detailed manner. Collaboration can only be successful if everyone has a same intention and shared goals to fulfill.
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  • Erica Jeter

    Hi, my name is Erica Jeter. I loved how you summarized Collaboration in three parts. This quite true for working together. Many people do not realize what working together requires. @EricaJeter1


    Hi Angela, my name is Melissa Neese. I am an Elementary Education major and a student of EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. Overall, I would say I have always been someone that works better by myself. At least I thought so. As I look back on my years in high school, I remember being in both Marching Band and Symphonic Band. Both of which require a collaboration. Our success as a high school band required us to work together. It also took both band directors, parents, and staff at the school to make us the success we were. I would now have to say collaborations are great! We were a team all working together for the same purpose. In the end it paid off. Thank you, for your post.

  • Savanah Moore

    My name is Savanah Moore. I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I love the three different tools to help calibrate smoothly.I love how you explain it so that I can understand!

  • Renae Betts

    Hello!! I teach second grade and plan on sharing this with my PLC team when school begins again. Like the way it is defined and love the last sentence – we are smarter together. Thanks!!

  • Josh Light

    Great insight Angela. I really like your point on moving towards shared goals. I’ve found that it isn’t enough to just state the goals, but you actually have to repeatedly bring them up. It’s so critical considering how easy it is to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Keeping the end game in mind helps the entire team maintain a positive attitude, and can make up the difference between success and utter failure.

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