Teamwork vs. Collaboration: What’s The Difference?


How Is Collaboration Different From Teamwork

Teamwork and collaboration. You’ve heard these terms used before. Probably interchangeably, in fact.

Key Takeaways

  • Teamwork often refers to good communication skills, cooperative effort, and coordination between team leaders and team members
  • Successful collaboration refers to the invention of new ideas, diversity of strengths, and the ability to improvise within collaborative settings
  • Collaborative teamwork combines the correct balance of teamwork and collaboration skills

But you might be surprised to know that there’s not just one key difference that sets these two concepts apart. There are multiple.

Knowing the differences between teamwork and collaboration can help you and your other team members tenfold. So, let’s get down to figuring out those differences, shall we?

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What are teamwork skills?

Teamwork refers to many different things. But at its core, a team setting will always thrive under these three skills listed below.


Communication is important for any number of tasks to get done. But when it comes to being a team player, you have to be able to communicate to the team what’s needed and what you’re able to offer.

Fostering a sense of understanding between team members is crucial for success. Information that gets shared isn’t just factual too.

It’s about offering emotional input too. Because when every team member feels respected and listened to, there’s nothing a team can’t accomplish.


Cooperation is all about getting team members to perform as a group. While there may be individual efforts involved, there are no individual goals.

Instead, there are shared goals amongst the team. Cooperation is much more about making sure that everyone is on the same page with the same goal in mind.

And making sure that everyone fulfills their own responsibilities in order to reach targets quicker and more effectively. Within a company, this boils down to team members’ willingness to work together to achieve a task.

And with a comedy magician, this boils down to the audience’s willingness to participate. (Can you tell we just want to bring some magic into your office?)

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Team work relies on a strict structure in order to function properly. And that’s where coordination comes in.

Typically, there is a team leader. And that leader controls the actions and individual work done by each member of the team.

Think of it in terms of a baseball analogy. If someone is trying to steal third, the third baseman needs to communicate that with the pitcher, catcher, first, and the second baseman.

So everyone can work together to achieve a single outcome: making sure that the player doesn’t steal third.

What are collaboration skills?

Collaboration skills bring about similar results to that of teamwork. But through very different means.

Diversity of skill is integral to collaboration between employees

New ideas

When employees engage in collaborative work, they are encouraged to offer their unique expertise and share ideas. This is not to say that collaborators don’t have the same vision in mind.

But that vision is the product of collaboration. In other words, collaboration brings creativity and compromise to the table.

Teams have a common goal that they work to achieve through means determined by the leader. But when employees collaborate, they are swapping ideas on how best to complete and support the project.

People working in a collaborative environment don’t necessarily have a specific role within the group. Instead, each individual focuses on a specific purpose that only they can bring to the table.

Difference and diversity of skills

There is strength in diversity. And collaborative teamwork aims to maximize those strengths.

Effective collaboration utilizes employees’ individual strengths. And funnels them towards completing each task needed to tackle a project.

So, can collaboration enable employees to bring their own unique perspective to the specific project? Yes.

And can people work collaboratively complete tasks using their own skills that aren’t necessarily shared by other employees in the company? Yes.

So, potentially, an employee may have the unique skill set to hire a comedian for a meeting and foster bonding among the company. Yes, that’s correct.

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The best collaborators are those who know how to be flexible. Teams thrive on a rigid structure where group work is predetermined and tasks are assigned and accounted for.

But collaboration operates best when the ebb and flow of creativity helps a group see the bigger picture. Let’s say you’re working remotely and there’s a task at hand that requires folks to bring their own ideas to the table.

Well, collaboration encourages the clash of perspectives in a company. Because it pushes employees to create a newfound perspective with the same common goal in mind.

This is where communication and improvisation are key. Because productivity requires that everyone remain open and supported within a project.

With collaboration, employees are encouraged to exchange and create new and innovative ways of accomplishing a task. And without any defined leaders who have the ultimate say.

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How is collaboration different from teamwork?

Teamwork and collaboration are closely related. But here are some of the key differences to keep an eye out for.

Teamwork relies on specific roles

A team that’s working on a project collectively needs a group structure. And that structure often relies on each individual fulfilling a specific role.

Teamwork and collaboration share both similarities and differences

These roles may be predetermined and have a clear set of expectations attached to them. And when a company is cooperative under this structure, teams can accomplish any myriad of tasks.

In a team, employees are likely only focusing on their own job. Because their work funnels into the group effect at hand.

But such a rigid structure isn’t the only way to increase productivity. And that’s where collaboration comes in and has a different say.

Collaboration breaks under inflexibility

Collaboration is similar to teamwork. But it cannot function if individual members are inflexible with certain decisions being made. Kind of like the balance that corporate entertainment brings to the table.

It’s true that teamwork relies both on communication and cooperation. But these skill sets fall under the guidance of one person making decisions.

Collaboration, on the other hand, doesn’t require a single leader. Instead, everyone on the team is a leader, capable of bringing their own ideas to the table.

And if others aren’t able to accept these new ideas or budge on their own, then collaboration simply doesn’t work. In this example, it’s clear to see that communication and cooperation are also both needed for collaboration to work.

But in a very different context to that of teamwork. Instead, a collaborative effort aims to create an environment of multiple leaders, perspectives, and skill sets whereas teamwork aims to complete the project in one, specific way.

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How are teamwork and collaboration similar?

That being said, teamwork and collaboration aren’t entirely different. In fact, there’s plenty of overlap between the two.

So let’s take a look at how collaboration and teamwork support one another. And how each can be used for achieving maximum success.

Both teamwork and collaboration work towards a shared goal

Having a shared goal in mind is crucial for both collaboration and teamwork. After all, what are people coming together for if not for a shared vision?

It’s just the way in which a task gets completed that teamwork and collaboration differ. For example, let’s say a team of folks needs to draft a company newsletter.

Teamwork would establish a leader of the group. And that leader would assign each member a different section of the newsletter to create.

Hire Clean Comedians® to help your employees engage and communicate both are important skills for either teamwork or collaboration

There would be an order to things. And everyone would be in charge of their own work, reflecting back on collective efforts.

But in the example of collaboration, there wouldn’t be a predetermined leader. Instead, everyone would be free to exchange ideas and brainstorm.

They would collectively come up with the best way to tackle the newsletter. It may mean certain employees work together on a section while others work together on the design.

Either way, it’s much more of a free-flowing process than teamwork. Of course, everyone is still on the same team when in collaborative spaces.

But the actions taken to achieve a common goal are created together. Not predetermined by a single individual.

Collaborative teamwork relies on respect between each team member

No matter what, every team needs to foster respect for each of its team members in order to function. If there is a leader, that leader needs to be respected.

And vice versa, that leader needs to respect the individuals they are assigning work to. In collaborative spaces, respect needs to be given to each individual.

Because everyone is bringing their own unique set of skills to the table. No one is better than anyone else.

Test each structure out on the office and see what works best

Everyone just has something different to offer. When these differences are respected, a team is able to accomplish more with multiple perspectives at play.

So it’s not about whether folks are coming together as a team or not. It’s about how folks think of themselves as a team and how they create action items to tick off the list.

The bottom line

It’s clear to see that both teamwork and collaboration have their fair share of similarities and differences. But at the end of the day, neither one is better than the other.

They are simply two different ways of getting something done. So if you’re wondering how to institute either teamwork or collaboration in your workplace, start by looking around.

See how your company thrives on its own. Do team members do better when there is a specific leader in charge?

Or could the stale air in the office do with some collaborative change? Either way, each of these methods offers you different ways to accomplish a task.

So you can give employees their best bet when working on a new project. After all, finding what works best for everyone is what both teamwork and collaboration are all about.

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Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular corporate entertainer, magician, and virtual speaker.