The difference between communication and collaboration

All law departments extol collaboration. Equally commonly, they bemoan the inadequacies of their internal communication. Are collaboration and communication not the same?

Emphatically not. Communication can be a one-way transmission of information; collaboration could theoretically be completely silent while two or more people work together toward a common end. Communication is a flow of information; collaboration is joint activity with sharing of resources.

In a law department, communication can be a post on the department’s intranet, an e-mail from the general counsel after the Executive Committee meeting, a report on the results of the employee-morale survey, a drive-by office chat. Collaboration could be project teams (See my post of Jan. 4, 2006 about Halliburton’s approach.), practice groups (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005 on communities of interest.), a working group to plan an offsite, or a document discovery planning unit.

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