Collaboration refers to the process of coming together as a group of two or more people in order to work in common interests. It generally involves working toward shared goals.
We see examples of collaboration in our everyday life, from seeing brands coming together to cross-promote each others’ products to teams at school working on a group project.
In the 21st Century workplace, collaboration is an increasingly important skill. As a result, you’re often asked to discuss your collaboration skills in interviews and write about them in resume submissions.
1. Sharing notes with a classmate
One of the most basic times when you have demonstrated collaboration is when you shared notes with your classmates.
Sharing notes is collaborative because each classmate gets something positive out of the experience and there is a two-way trade. You get to see what your classmate thought were the most important points and they see what you thought was most important.
You can then compare notes, identify importan things you missed, and come out the end better for it. In this way, sharing notes isn’t just giving someone else something for nothing: it’s working in teams and putting your heads together to achieve improvement!
2. Brainstorming in a whole class group
Another time when you have collaborated is in a whole-class brainstorming session. These sessions involve every class member putting their brains together to come up with potential solutions to a problem.
Likely, this scenario will involve a teacher at the front of the class writing all the different ideas people have on the board. By bringing together everyone’s perspectives, the class can see a variety of different thoughts on how to address one problem. We call this a divergent thinking activity.
3. Getting together with your mentor to think up personal goals
We also collaborate with mentors whose job it is to guide us in the right direction. Your mentor won’t just tell you what to do – they will brainstorm with you.
Generally, a mentorship role is designed to help the mentee through bottlenecks and struggles you’re facing. They might try to take a thousand-foot view of the issue or provide advice from someone who has “been there done that.”
In these instances, they’re not there to tell you what to do. Instead, they’re there to talk with you and help you in a two-way conversation. You’ll put your minds together because you know together you and your mentor will get better results than if your mentor wasn’t there to help.
4. Discussing ideas in a product design meeting
Product design meetings are generally spaces of excellent collaboration. They require a collection of creative people to get together to come up with ideas about new products.
These meetings will involve people with a range of different talents, interests, and experiences. By bringing all of these people together, the company can come up with a design that is unique and well thought-out. The breadth of ideas will underpin better product design due to a wider range of inputs.
5. Starting a business with a friend
If you were to go into a joint venture on a business idea, you’d need to do a lot of collaboration.
This might involve putting your heads together to come up with a strategic plan as well as (inevitably) brainstorming ways to overcome difficulties you face along the way.
Often, this sort of cooperation involves two people coming together with complementary skill sets. Perhaps one person is good at managing staff while the other is best at coming up with creative ideas. By bouncing off each other’s strengths, you can be a better business overall.
6. Two businesses that cross-promote for mutual benefit
We often see “collabs” between businesses in niche industries such as the craft coffee industry, where two coffee roasters might collaborate on a new roast.
You also see this in advertising a lot. For example, a company who sells airfares might get together with a resort in Hawaii to come up with a package deal. By leveraging each others’ client bases, these two companies could each make more profit than if they worked alone.
7. Setting team goals
Team goals require the whole team’s input or consent. Without every member of the team being on the same page, the team will be pulling in opposite directions.
Often, team goal setting involves getting together in a group meeting to collaborate on ideas, vision, and milestones for the team to set.
It may also require setting team roles and deciding on a timeline for the completion of each milestone. All of these steps require a degree of cooperation and teamwork.
8. Working on a set play in football
In American football, set plays are commonplace. They require significant collaboration between players and even choreography in order to pull them off.
Set plays can increase chances of gaining extra yards or even scoring a touchdown. The play is designed to catch the opponents off guard, bamboozle them, and break through their defenses.
But to achieve this, each player needs to be part of the collaboration: they need to know where to run, where to stand, and what to do in order to pull off a team effort.
9. Coming up with a plan for a group presentation
Students and team members in the workplace may have experienced collaboration when putting together group presentations.
Collaborative tasks involved in setting up the presentation may include: asking one another for feedback, requesting input on the slide deck and presentation style, setting shared objectives, and practicing the presentation as a group.
There’s perhaps nothing more collaborative than parenting. The two parents need to be able to work as a cohesive unit to raise a healthy and emotionally balanced child.
For example, collaboration might take place when the parents need to decide upon parenting styles and the rules of the household. The parents might at first disagree on what should be allowed and not allowed. By putting their heads together and compromising, they can ensure there are consistent messages for their child.
Similarly, on a day-to-day basis, parents might need to collaborate to figure out who is mindng the child at which times, who is free to pick up the child from swimming practice, and so on.
11. Developing a peer teaching schedule
Peer teaching can be highly beneficial for both the teachers and the students, but only if it’s successful. And as you may have guessed, successful peer teaching needs a lot of collaboration.
Peer teaching generally involves two teachers getting together to split tasks, share resources, and work together to support the students.
It might involve, for example, one teacher taking over mathematics preparation and the other teacher taking over literacy preparation. By doing this, each teacher can specialize, focus, spend more time on one topic, and therefore create better lesson plans. They then share the lesson plans with one another.
Collaboration in this instance might involve cross-checking plans with one another at draft stage to get feedback, agreeing on who is covering which learning outcomes, and working toward shared goals.
12. Working on a group project at school
Groupwork at school is one of the times when collaboration is explicitly taught and practiced.
In group projects, collaboration is required to prioritize tasks, decide on a plan of action, build the product or presentation, and agree on the final drafts that will be submitted for grading.
13. Unionizing for better wages
On a broader scale, we can see collaboration taking place among community groups who get together to share a common ambition. We see, for example, workers collaborating on wage and conditions negotiations through their unions.
A union will collaborate on negotiation strategies and even work across different workplaces as a unionized “economic sector” to ensure higher wages for an entire profession.
Usually, after agreeing on set goals and negotiating for them, the union members will be asked to vote to approve or decline a negotiated workplace agreement, which we can see is another example of collaboration.
14. Wolves hunting as a pack
Humans aren’t the only collaborators in this world. Wolves are also excellent at working together to achieve shared goals.
If you observe a wolf pack hunting, you’ll notice them splitting into groups and surrounding their prey. In these situations, the wolves are communicating with one another and making shared strategic decisions that will be of mutual benefit for all members – each wolf gets to eat the spoils!
15. Playing a team sport
Team sports require collaboration. The team is collaborating when they come up with strategies to win, agree on who should take which position, and so on.
We encourage young people to play team sports because it helps them develop social skills. They learn to work together, accept the decisions of the majority, and take a back seat and assist others rather than always being the star of the game.
16. Children playing in the playground
Collaboration enters into children’s play at around 4 and a half years of age. For the rest of our lives, collaboration is a feature of our group play.
According to Parten’s stages of play, collaboration emerges in the sixth stage. At this point, children can be observed working toward common goals during their play. They support one another, maintain social roles, and compromise for the sake of the play scenario.
As they age, children will also engage in play that involves strategy, agreed-upon rules, and competing groups (i.e. teams in a football game).
17. Students giving each other feedback on their essays
Another example of collaborating for students is a scenario where two students come together to give each other constructive feedback.
By looking over each other’s essay, the students will be able to point out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This quid-pro-quo can help both students get better grades.
But it also enables them to see another student’s sample of work in order to know if they’re on the right track or get additional examples, allowing each other to broaden their horizons.
25 Best Collaboration Skills Examples
- Goal setting
- Risk assessment
- Resource management
- Data analysis
- Critical thinking
Collaboration is one of the most important skills of the 21st Century. It enables us to achieve greater things than we could ever achieve alone. And in modern workplaces, we’re constantly working in cooperative teams.
When going for an interview or writing a resume, keep in mind some of the above collaboration examples and see which ones match your personal experiences. Use them as stimuli to think of times in your life when you have collaborated.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.