A Winning Combination in Tourism: Collaborative Teamwork Equals Teamwork Plus Collaboration

Teamwork seems like a simple concept to implement in your organization. You discuss tasks that need to be done, who will do them, and you are off and running. However, the reality is that teamwork skills require work. Collaboration is another hot topic today – most people assume that collaboration is simply another way of saying teamwork. But the difference between the two is not just matter of semantics.

This guide explores teamwork and collaboration: what they are exactly, how they differ, and how they compare to a few other similar terms. We discuss why workplace failures happen, why you should have strong communication, and why having a collaborative relationship is important for you and your business. Then, we figure out what you need to do before considering collaboration and teach you how to collaborate well and foster teamwork. Finally, we’ll get in-depth advice on fostering teamwork and collaboration from our experts.


Teamwork is the joint action of people working toward the same end goal. When people talk about teamwork, they mean more than just completing a task, however: they mean the work that comes from people working together effectively. The strength of a team comes from supporting each other, communicating well, and doing your share. Other characteristics that define a team include similar skills, autonomy, defined roles, defined leadership, and the resources to meet the joint goal. For example, imagine a group of people all pulling a rope. Not only do they share a goal, but they are using the same or similar skills. You perform team building exercises when your team needs to work on improving their role definitions or their communication skills. A team includes a designated authority figure who resolves their differences and makes decisions. Regardless of enmity between members, with a good leader, a team can accomplish their goals.

A collaborative team is a slightly different version of a traditional team because its members have differing skill sets. Although the members have varying areas of expertise, they still share similar goals, resources, and leadership. With their diverse set of specialized skills, they should be able to problem-solve as a group. The imagery of pulling the rope only applies when you rewind to the group who settled on pulling the rope in the first place. This group may have had an engineer explaining the mechanism of rope-pulling, a foreman deciding who would be on the rope-pulling team, and countless others defining their roles and using their expertise to solve the problem.

Collaborative leaders can span the scope of your business by engaging people outside of their direct control and getting them to work as a team with a common goal. When businesses talk about collaborative leadership, they mean distributed organizational structures that are either cross-unit, cross-functional, or cross-organization. These groups get employees at all levels with a stake in the outcome. This strategy is more about facilitating the group effort than about making decisions for the group. In other words, a collaborative leader leads the group’s process, not the group itself.

Another type of collaborative leadership involves performing inside an organization. This occurs when leadership shifts from person to person, based on the problem to be solved. Leadership then becomes the collaborative effort.

Therefore, when we talk about collaboration itself, we are talking about problem-solving with a group of people with different skillsets. However, what makes this type of group work compelling and successful can also make it fail. Different skill sets often come attached to people who think differently from each other, which can make communication among them difficult. Moreover, they frequently possess different priorities, which can cause surges of disagreement.

A big part of collaboration is coordination. Coordination is about achieving efficiency and about telling participants how and when they must act. This concept is similar to collaboration and teamwork because its goals are the same. If we return to our rope-pulling image, we see coordination as someone first organizing different groups and activities individually, with each group performing their own aspects of the work. It involves the group that brings the rope, the one that sets up the rope, the one that makes sure the ground is solid enough to stand on, and the one that pulls the rope. When these four groups have already completed their work independently, the coordinating person accomplishes the rope-pulling.

Of course, cooperation is an integral element of teamwork, collaboration, and coordination. Cooperation usually consists of two or more people sharing ideas or activities. You often share the information you generate from cooperation – while it is sometimes required, it is an informal process. Compared with teamwork, collaboration, and coordination, cooperation is the activity that requires the least amount of shared purpose and dependence on team members.

Communication is another key element of working together. It is the well-mannered approach to the workplace, requiring all members to talk to each other. It involves interacting in whatever way works best for you and your team personality and relationship-wise.

Even though these five terms have similar connotations, they differ in their level of purpose and dependence.

A Winning Combination in Tourism: Collaborative Teamwork Equals Teamwork Plus Collaboration
A Winning Combination in Tourism: Collaborative Teamwork Equals Teamwork Plus Collaboration

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