Communication and Collaboration - What it is and why it is important
Written by: Hrishikesh Pardeshi, Founder at Flexiple, buildd & Remote Tools.
Last updated: Jan 19, 2023
We have written quite a few blogs around collaboration in remote teams. And a common point in a lot of them is the focus on communicating clearly, or over-communicating. This, as we have pointed to earlier, is an important focus point that successful remote workers we have spoken to over time have told us about. Right from the big firms who have established successful remote working practices to the individual freelancers who have done it on their own, the stress on communicating well for successful collaboration is prominent. Communication and collaboration are the two most important factors that determine how well the team will perform.
To find ways in which these work well for your remote team, though, you will need to understand what these two terms are. The places that they are similar and the areas in which they differ also need to be understood clearly. A good knowledge of what you need to achieve is going to help you better in putting them to use. To help you with this, we have put together the below points.
What is Communication?
If we focus on just this word, communication, then we can simply define it as conveying something to another person. Usually, this is taken to be through verbal talking or reading, but actually, communication encompasses the non verbal actions and components, too. Every action you take, or any facial expression, would be a way of letting someone know what you feel. Thus, you are conveying something to the person.
In an office, with your team sitting in the same place as you, letting them know what you think through the use of facial expressions is easy. However, when working remotely, this can get really tough as all of the communication happens over text or rarely over a video call. Thus, in this setting, good communication would be to tell every thing in a highly elaborate manner. Breaking down and getting across every little detail would then be the communication between two individuals or the team at large.
What is Collaboration?
Collaboration is when two or more individuals come together and work towards the same goal. For example, when a particular project is given to your firm, then there will be a certain set of people who solely work on this project. This team works together to deliver the work to the client on time. Here, the members of the team collaborate. Do not, however, mistake collaboration with cooperation. To help you with understanding the differences between the two of these, we have written about them in a dedicated blog.
Collaboration can be of many different types. When your team comes together to discuss ideas, it is collaborating. You probably use various brainstorming techniques to do this. Then, when you start working on it, you keep a central repository of notes. This is collaborating through documentation. You will need to collaborate on the design, too. Next, you might need to get on a video call to discuss something. Or you might need to write common code. These are all various ways in which collaboration works in remote teams.
Communication vs Collaboration: How they differ
Although both find importance in the smooth working of your team, communication and collaboration are different. They are largely interrelated, though and telling where and how they differ can be tough. Communication can be between two people (two-way), one person broadcasting something (one-way). It could be formal or informal. It may even be verbal and non-verbal. These are the various modes used by people to get across their points. And even writing a note and passing it on to someone is communicating the point to them.
As far as collaboration is concerned, however, this is more about working together. Communication is a prime requirement for good collaboration. It isn't the other way around, though. You can communicate things to someone without actually collaborating on some or the other thing with the said person. It could simply be making a point which isn't one that the other person is needed to give an input on. On the other hand, the other person's input is vital for collaborating. At least two people are needed for this.
Why are they important?
As mentioned earlier, these are the things that make or break your remote team. But how and why, though? Efficient communication and collaboration are going to decide whether you have that upper hand as far as working a team is concerned. This is because, when the team works, every person is needed to not only tell follow the ideas of one main leader, but also give inputs of his/ her own. Communication will decide how well the person has understood some thing which is told to them, based on how it is told. If it isn't told in a simple manner, or is told in a way that the other person is not at ease to understand, this could be detrimental for the team.
You will inevitably have to work together with your team at every level of the project. To get the team to deliver at the very best of its abilities, top notch collaboration is important. Every person has ideas that are different from the next person. Make the members share their ideas to the team at large. A good use of the various ideas helps to make a better delivery on the end goal. For example, a person could suggest a loophole in the way of working that is particular to his/ her work alone. This might have gone unnoticed by the others but will still affect the overall function of the team. To avoid this, good collaboration is a must.
How to improve communication and collaboration in your remote team:
To get better at this, start by making small changes. Encourage your team to elaborate. Every text should be sent with complete context. Tell them to think of their own self in the other person's shoes. This way, you encourage them to see the complete picture. They then will automatically want to know the complete details of the work. And will do the same while telling it to another person. Understanding and practicing a set of norms for collaboration should also help.
The use of right tools is also an important step as far as communication and collaboration in remote teams is considered. We have below listed some of the best tools that we found for to help your remote team with collaborating and communicating. Do take a look at them and test how they work for your team. We also regularly discuss the latest tools in our community. Like this review on Flujo. Do drop in and tell us and other remote workers what you think about various aspects of your work. Hoping to see you there!