Collaboration Vs. Cooperation (With Main Differences)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

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Usually, to achieve a collective goal, it is necessary for team members to work together and share information and opinions. A group of people can strengthen their chance of finishing a task if they use their diverse skills towards the same goal. Understanding the differences and similarities between collaboration and cooperation can help you enhance your teamwork skills and boost productivity within a group and throughout an organisation. In this article, we compare collaboration vs. cooperation, share the major differences between these two terms, and review two examples of these concepts.

Comparing collaboration vs. cooperation

If you want to improve the collective effort at work or have decided to use your skill set to help a team increase its productivity levels, you may benefit from comparing collaboration vs. cooperation. The fundamental difference between these two concepts depends on the purpose that motivates teamwork. For instance, as part of a group, you can collaborate with your colleagues to achieve a common objective. Typically, every member of the group can collaborate by finishing a task that is part of a bigger project.

While if one team member had an individual objective that they want to accomplish, their colleagues may cooperate with them and help them finish numerous tasks that ultimately lead to meeting that particular goal. Working together is a human behaviour and an essential activity in the workplace. Companies promote synergy and team effort to operate their businesses, perform their activities, create organisational cultures, and set up corporate values that guide their employees' work. To fully understand collaboration and cooperation, it is beneficial to compare the following definitions:

What is collaboration?

Collaboration refers to a group of people working together to attain a goal that all of them share, but they might not achieve if they work individually. These types of goals usually involve team effort because they require diverse knowledge, experience, skills, coordination and sometimes ideas from various people. For example, if a factory located in Punjab decides to manufacture printers, it may require its employees to understand the goal, share this objective, know the project's time frame and work as a team. They cannot complete all the activities involved if they avoid collaborating with one another.

An organisation can add value to its products and services by promoting collaborative work among its employees. It can do this by creating a digital or physical workplace where employees may share information that helps them accomplish multiple activities. The organisation can also benefit from the different points of view that team members can add to a project and how they can collectively address customer needs. So, it is important for team members to know and understand their role and duties within the organisation, as this can point out the specific tasks they can perform to help achieve business objectives.

Read more: Collaboration Skills: Definition, Benefits And Examples

What is cooperation?

Cooperation refers to an individual or a group of people working together to help a colleague or a team member achieve a goal. This individual may reach their objective without help, but this might increase the project's time frame or affect the quality of their results. Friends, colleagues or team members may not share the objective of the project, but their support can definitely increase productivity, enhance quality, and help meet deadlines. For example, a manager who is responsible for delivering a financial report may benefit from a colleague who is helping them corroborate the numbers in the statement.

As cooperation may not imply a shared vision, it does not suggest responsibilities either. The individual or persons who are helping a colleague or friend achieve a goal may not feel any commitment to keeping an effort or working until the end of the project. They might contribute to those activities they find comfortable and avoid those that require more effort. Given this lack of commitment, the project may not fully benefit from the skills and experience of those who are helping. To avoid this situation, an individual can oversee the cooperation they are receiving and handpick their helpers.

Read more: Examples Of Teamwork Skills (And How To Improve Them)

Major differences between collaboration and cooperation

Both concepts may involve a group of people working together, but the accountability they may feel regarding the project can vary according to the objective they are pursuing. For instance, if a person is collaborating on a project to market a new electric car in Bombay, they may have an assigned responsibility that is essential to promote the brand in this area. While if an individual is cooperating in the same project, they can help the team analyse their marketing data, but their work is not crucial to continue with the project. Here are more differences between these two concepts:


Whether team members are working together and sharing a physical workplace or a digital one, collaboration relies on how they can share valuable information to continue with the project. It is beneficial for the entire team to share reports and e-mails, celebrate meetings to convey protocols and reach agreements and give presentations to show progress. Conversely, cooperation may not involve constant communication because the person or the individuals who are helping the team might not be available to do so. Cooperation then may require precise instructions to explain what kind of help the team is requiring.


Team members can collaborate with one another to solve a problem and help the organisation make business decisions. They can do this by analysing issues and data as a group, sharing experiences with similar problems and making decisions that aim to achieve a common objective. While if an individual is cooperating with a colleague to attain an objective, they may suggest solutions and share ideas based only on their experience and skill set. They can do this because they might ignore all the data gathered during the project or they might not feel part of it.


Conflicts are inherent to human behaviour, which means they are also part of business projects. To ease and solve conflict situations among team members, it is crucial for the organisation to assign roles and establish protocols. These can facilitate collaboration within a team, as they can rely on managers, supervisors and procedures to address situations that might require authority and clear rules. Conversely, people cooperating with a project rarely face conflict situations, as their work is completely voluntary. Individuals receiving this assistance usually avoid any conflict as they also understand the nature of the help.

Read more: What Is Conflict Resolution? Using This Practice At Work


Entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from cooperation, as this type of scheme may provide them with the help they need at no cost. People cooperating with start-up businesses may enjoy the experience, feel the excitement and express a strong desire to see the company succeed. While within a collaborative scheme, entrepreneurs may handpick their team members and select those they really need due to a limited budget. This situation can affect the overall result of the initiative or require alliances and agreements with established businesses that can ensure the resources needed.

Read more: 10 Entrepreneur Characteristics That Lead To Success

Examples of collaboration and cooperation

Below are two examples that can help you understand the differences between these two concepts:

Example of collaboration

Here is an example of how a business can benefit from a collaboration scheme:

Bombay's Toys is a toys manufacturer that wants to create a smart bracelet for girls between 10 and 12 years old. The company wants to sell two million of its bracelets across India within a year. To achieve this objective, it hires 100 professionals with different skills, educational backgrounds and experience in the field. The organisation also creates a digital workspace where all team members can interact with one another regardless of their location. To launch the project, Bombay's Toys celebrates a virtual meeting and encourages unit leaders to share contacts. Now all members can collaborate with the project.

Read more: Key Employability Skills To Be Successful In The Workplace

Example of cooperation

Here is an example of how an individual can benefit from a cooperation scheme:

Sunita is trying to meet her deadline and deliver a financial report that the upper management of Bombay's Toys is expecting to allocate resources to its different units. A colleague with years of experience that used to work in the company's financial department, call her and offer their help. Her colleague informs her that they are available to proofread the document and check the data included in it. This may help her avoid mistakes and ensure that a person with the experience she does not have revises her work. Now Sunita may benefit from her colleague's cooperation.

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