Friday, June 05, 2009

Sharing vs Collaborating Organizations

Recently, I came across a dichotomy in terminology that was not simply instructive, but explanatory. The terms to be compared were “sharing” and “collaborating.” According to the Free Dictionary, sharing means “to participate in, use, enjoy, or experience jointly or in turns,” while collaborating means “to work with another or others on a joint project.” The implied word analogies are instructive, as sharing is to participate, use, enjoy, and experience, as collaborating is to work, produce, achieve, and attain.

So, what is my point? What I am trying to say is that sharing is not the same as collaborating, especially when it comes to work. Too often, co-workers are willing to share data and information, but their motivation in sharing is merely to participate, use, enjoy, and otherwise experience an outcome devoid of personal responsibility. Conversely, co-workers who collaborate in a joint effort are working to achieve some ends to which each collaborator extends some degree of personal responsibility.

With these distinctions in mind, how would you describe your organization of interest? Is it a sharing organization or a collaborating organization? Is the purpose of the organization lost in confounding experiences and participation, or is the purpose of your organization found in joint work endeavoring to achieve a common purpose or cause?

In my past writings, I have argued that the future of enterprise depends upon its capacity to be inclusive, transparent, and inventive. But, to achieve these ends, the enterprise must first transcend the passive sharing inclinations of its members to become instead a vibrant collaborating organization where work is defined by its combined efforts to achieve common goals. While it may be fun to share, collaboration is what advances enterprise to a higher cause.

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