There are many ways to perform a task, but it is clear that this action will be easier if done in a group.
But it is not enough that there are several people for this coordination to take place automatically, but a series of premises must be fulfilled. Let’s take a look at the basics of collaborative work and see some related examples.
What is collaborative work?
Collaborative work is a way of producing elements or services whose key is the formation of a community of people who coordinate in the execution of the different tasks necessary to achieve, together, the common result sought by the group. This form of work is also known as peer production. In some places, it is also called mass collaboration.
In order to carry out collaborative work, it is necessary to establish beforehand a socio-technical system through which all individuals can link their activities to achieve the necessary level of cooperation. Of course, today the factor that made this form of business possible is none other than the Internet. Thanks to the network of networks, people located in geographically very distant places can collaborate with each other without any difficulty.
Another characteristic of collaborative work is that there is no strict formality between the collaborators and the resulting project, but it is a kind of tacit agreement among them all. Therefore, the end result is not the responsibility of anyone in particular, but of all those who have contributed their efforts, as a whole, as a true community of equals.
This methodology is reminiscent of organisms that function as a sort of beehive spirit, bees and ants being the clearest examples. In the societies of these animals, there is no individual, only the community of all. Therefore, all the tasks provided are part of a common goal and are equally important to the goals and needs of the whole.
Etymologically, the terms collaborative work were suggested by Yochai Benkler, professor of business law at Harvard University. In establishing the definition of this new concept, Benkler argued that two fundamental pillars had to be taken into account.
One would be the common good, which is what all the individuals in the group who collaborate on the task are looking for. The other would be altruism, because there is no selfish end in anybody’s actions, but it is done for everyone. For this reason, there is no individual author in this type of project., Since no one is more important than another, that some people have spent more time or more effort than others, because it is understood that each individual brings what he can or wants, without that either a problem.
Differences with teamwork
There are several characteristics that make collaborative work and teamwork similar, but they are very different concepts. To start, the team consists of a group defined for this taskIn collaboration, a number of subjects decide to share their knowledge and efforts. The team also has a clear leader, a figure who does not need collaborative work, as they all have the same status, with no hierarchy between them.
Responsibility for the team’s tasks is shared among all members; in a collaboration, on the other hand, each subject is responsible for the task he is currently performing.
Another concept that also varies is the desired objective, because in the team this translates into an optimized result, and in collaborative work, it is a production of new knowledge, Thanks to the union of everyone’s contributions.
The last point where the two styles would be different would be in the existence of a coordinator, The person responsible for assigning and linking the tasks of each team member. This position does not fit into the definition of collaborative work, and it is that when an individual decides to join one of these projects already chooses himself the part to be developed at that time, without the need for ‘one responsible for indicating it.
It is interesting to observe the psychological processes that take place in collaborative work and that are not necessarily found in teamwork. Knowledge has been built among all project collaborators, and all tasks are regulated by all members, in what is called metagroup activity. The motivation comes from the collaboration itself, because the individual wants to be part of the whole, through his participation.
An example: free and open source software
The best example of collaborative work is that of the various free and open source software projects that hundreds of programmers around the world have developed, working in community while being thousands of kilometers away. Thanks to his altruistic work today, there are many programs that allow us all to perform many tasks, some quite complex., Using a computer, without having to pay an economic cost.
Of course, this does not mean that anyone who wishes can make the contribution that they consider to be a donation. Many times, this money is reinvested in order to be able to pay the costs of servers and other elements necessary for software development, and thus to be able to continue to offer new products to all citizens, in a completely free and altruistic way.
This type of work comes into play well-known examples like Wikipedia, A worldwide encyclopedia in which anyone can become a publisher and contribute their knowledge, always with duly referenced sources. It is currently one of the main sources of knowledge in the world, and can even be downloaded to a flash drive (of course at the point where it is being edited at that time) to take it to places without an internet connection and to this way to provide access to a rich source of knowledge.
Linux is also very popular, as well as its various variants.. It is an open source operating system that breaks with the limitations of classic Windows or macOS, and in which everyone can contribute their own technique to continue improving it every day, thus offering a free alternative to anyone who decides to install it. on his computer.
they exist programs like LibreOffice or OpenOffice, Which offer the same functionalities as those of the Microsoft Office package, with the difference that the former are free and that anyone can download and install them without any problem. Being compatible with the classic programs of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others, many users decide to opt for this alternative to create and open their documents.
Other examples of collaboration
If collaborative work is an altruistic and therefore free mechanism, some organizations and companies have been able to take advantage of this type of activity to obtain another type of benefit. This is the case, for example, of NASA, the American space agency. NASA asked for the collaboration of anonymous citizens for a very important task, but at the same time long and tedious, Like mapping a certain area of the crater surface on the red planet.
This proposal turned out to be an absolute success, as more than 85,000 people decided to lend their aid, in very short intervals of time, but it freed the NASA doctors from hundreds of hours of effort. , which they were able to dedicate. other types of questions for their research. This is an example of the potential and strength that collaborative work can acquire, even with very small contributions from its different components.
IBM did the same, Although from a different prism. In this case, the tech giant that decided was to contribute financially to different free and open source software projects, like the examples we saw above. But what was the advantage of this practice? Is this a non-performing investment? Nothing could be further from the truth. This practice, in the long run, gave IBM good profits.
And it is this, by helping to expand the offer of free software and make the use of computers simple and economically very accessible to the average citizen, many people would decide to buy a computer for home use ( and even for work), and in many of these cases would opt for one of the computers that the IBM house would offer them. A master plan, which shows how everyone can benefit from collaborative work, even in the long term.
- Fruits, AE (2010). Interculturality, mediation and collaborative work. Madrid. Narcea SA of Edicions.
- Estel, MM (2003). Between collaborative work and collaborative learning. Ibero-American Journal of Education.
- Pérez, MM (2007). Collaborative work in university class. Laurus.
- Vázquez, JM, Hernández, JS, Vázquez-Antonio, J., Juárez, LG, Guzmán, CE (2017). Collaborative work and socio-training: a path towards complex knowledge. Education and humanism.