Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Coblaboration vs. Collaboration

I steal a lot of ideas and concepts from innovative thinkers. One of my more popular thefts is the term "coblaboration." I used it in a presentation at the Economy League of Philadelphia last month and it got tweeted out by several folks. I stole the term from Eric Gordon, the dynamic CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He correctly considers calls for more collaboration with some skepticism.

The following chart -- which I didn't steal from anyone -- shows the top five differences between a collaboration that has no chance of generating positive change and one that is designed to sustain systems change.

Focused on assigning blame or taking credit
Focused on outcomes
Stakeholders participate to protect
Stakeholders participate to generate value
Opinions rule
Data is king
Talk exceeds action
Actions emerge from engagement
Informal process
Intentional, rigorous process

During lunch today a colleague said it's the final difference that is the most important. She wondered how anyone expects change to happen in a complex system if the work isn't guided by an intentional, rigorous process. Indeed. Yet more often than not funders encourage stakeholders to collaborate but fail to provide them with the capacity required to engage in a rigorous collaboration.


  1. I (accidentally) helped initiate a coblaboration. Some actions/impacts did result, but failed to conceive a back bone.
    I think all your points differentiating the two are valid, but IMHO, the process issue is what caused the demise of the group.

  2. This is really an excellent blog as well as its content. Christopher Thompson

  3. This seeding of knowledge is exhilarating to those of us seeking progressive food or nourishment in a Coblaborative Society with a narcissistic flavor versus a truly Collaborative Society where we work together for the good of all. Thank you for this elevated conscious feeding.