What’s the difference??

I was preparing some slides for the Ark Group Enterprise 2.0 conference, at which I seem to have a rather cavernous slot on the afternoon of 2 April, when a thought occurred …

… in a social media context, is there any recognisable difference between communication and collaboration … or do they essentially become one and the same??

As I seem to do with increasing frequency these days, I consulted Wikipedia for quick definitions of both – I’m either getting old and very forgetful or I’m developing an unhealthy dependency on Wikipedia – neither gives me a warm feeling!!

Anyway … according to the great book:

“Communication can be defined as the process of meaningful interaction among living beings. It is the act of passing information and the process by which meanings are exchanged so as to produce understanding.”

Nicely put … and:

“Collaboration is a structured, recursive process where two or more people work together toward a common goal—typically an intellectual endeavour that is creative in nature — by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.”

Also nicely put!

So, on the face of it, different activities. However, I’m not sure that the boundary between them is so clear-cut – I think they are interlinked and overlapping … they happen together and at the same time – one can’t happen without the other in the conversational context of a social media environment. And, in a social media powered corporate environment in which all participants are working towards a common goal, the boundaries are even more blurred.

Yet another warning shot over the bows of the internal communications profession!!



  1. You should complain Everytime I tell people I work in communications they assume I work for BT.

    There used to be the distinction made by Kevin Thomson between communication which was about people and communications which was about spending millions of $ on telecommunications.

    Meanwhile I see that your media fame spreads and Ragan.com are gong to run an article on you. When will it all end…

  2. Rex – I like your post … well articulated. I guess the point I was trying to make was that in a ‘relationship’ based environment is there any point in trying to differentiate between these two activities – if you imagine being at home with your partner doing the washing up for example, you are both collaborating to finish the washing up but probably also talking at the same time – communicating (… although my wife hasn’t mastered the art of two-way communication yet :-))

    Marc – I didn’t know there was anywhere else to ‘get’ after being interviewed by you!!

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