I attended an Agile New England event this past week. One of the roundtable facilitators mentioned there was a difference between collaboration and cooperation.
When you collaborate, you work with other people. When you cooperate, you do your work and make sure the work fits with other people’s work.
I thought that discrimination was quite insightful.
I collaborate with my co-authors. We write together. We pair on the same document. We work together at the same time.
Sometimes, when we complete our original collaboration, we cooperate. I have done final edit acceptance for some articles because my coauthor trusts me. Sometimes, the other author does, because I trust him or her.
When Mark and I fold laundry, we collaborate (on getting the clean clothes off the bed and into drawers). When we time when we do the laundry, (I wait to do the sheets and towels until after his bike ride), we cooperate.
I find that when I collaborate with others, I build more of my support system. I can build some support with cooperation, and I find that support can take longer and is not as solid as when I collaborate. Your experience might be different.
When you work closely with people at work, do you each do your own work, cooperating? (Design by contract is a form of cooperation.) Or, do you work together on a chunk of work, collaborating with each other? (Pairing, swarming, and mobbing are all forms of collaboration.) Are you doing what is best for you, the team, and the project? (How can you know what is best?)
We need to collaborate and cooperate. I like this distinction and I hope you do, too.
That is the question of the week: Are you collaborating or cooperating?
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