The Difference Between Collaboration and Teamwork


The job market, today, is very competitive and it often comes down to who conducts themselves the best in the interview.  You have walk into that room with a combination of confidence and humility that can be difficult to balance. But you also have to know what to say during the interview; and not only which words to use but also why you should use them.

For example, the word “collaboration” is a bit of a buzzword right now.  A lot of people use this word—you probably use it, too—but do you really know what it means? And, more importantly, do you know why it is such a buzzword right now?


To put it simply, “collaboration” is defined as:

  • the act of working with someone else (another person or organization) in order to produce or create something.

This might sound a lot like teamwork, but while similar, they are not, in fact, the same thing.  Teamwork is defined as:

  • the combined action of a group of people, especially when it improves efficiency and/or efficacy

Grammatically, the terms are different because one is a verb and the other is a noun.  More specifically, though, collaboration is something that you do, typically, to achieve an end result (especially when that end result is something you may not have been able to do as a single entity.  Teamwork, on the other hand, typically refers to working together to achieve a desired expectation.

For example, you might collaborate on a project in order to capitalize on each person’s skills and strengths to get a better result than each person would have achieved on their own.  Teamwork, however, more accurately refers to all individuals working as a single unit in order to achieve the most desired result.


The biggest difference between collaboration and teamwork is that a team usually has a coach or facilitator.  Collaborators, on the other hand, typically do not.  Essentially, then, a team works together under the guidance of a leader while collaborators operate without a goal, hopefully instinctively knowing which strengths each person possesses.


It may seem counterintuitive but Renaudexec employers would have rather have collaborators than team players. Or rather, collaborators are more apt to understand teamwork than team players are to understand collaboration.  Employers look for workers who can follow leadership but can also work with other people autonomously without always needing leadership.

Kimberly Allen

The author Kimberly Allen