Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thru Their Eyes

Emma Gilding, an extraordinary innovator and Crain's Under 40 at 32, was trained as an anthropologist and brought her talent to advertising. She has a new blog: Thru Their Eyes that covers a variety of topics around creativity and management. Worth taking a look. I particularly like the elegance of Three Notes to Collaborate.

Starting a Discussion

I've been considering Emma's distinction between collaboration vs. cooperation. I think it needs refining, although I'm not sure exactly how.

Emma defines collaboration as a lofty goal, and I agree it's a difficult process to maintain, particularly in business.

Emma says:

Collaboration is difficult because it requires critical thinking skills and creativity and that we have one goal and that we be innovative in the way that we seek to fulfill that goal.

On the other hand:

Cooperation requires that we seek to fulfill the same focused goal but using the same skills in the same way. This strikes me as a much more achievable goal as we have been doing it for years.

The distinction is an important one, but I think it needs some tweaking.

Critical Thinking

The difference here seems to be twofold: collaboration requires critical thinking, creativity, and innovation aimed at one goal. Cooperation requires using one, rather than three, sets of skills in the same way toward (again) one goal.

Is it possible to do anything without creativity, innovation, and critical thinking in some form?

Even digging a ditch requires overcoming obstacles that arise, and all tasks done as a group require consideration about how to work together. Last, is everyone doing exactly the same task? All of these negotiations to me seem to require some analysis and creativity, even if we've become unconscious of the processes.

By the same token, would a musician's jam be classified as collaboration or cooperation? Each is performing different tasks, they are certainly creative, and the result is often innovative. However, again, the critical thinking aspect is intuitive. It's not self-consciously articulated.

So -- is the real distinction between cooperation and collaboration a group's awareness about the differences in roles, outcomes, and processes? Each cooperation and collaboration requires agreement, and although collaboration tends to be an explicit understanding, cooperation doesn't have to be.

Or does it?

Maybe it would be worth breaking down further what goes into assessment, analysis, mastering, and performing with one voice -- from the previous post. Defining terms is always useful.

Emma? What do you think?