In networks, cooperation trumps collaboration. Collaboration happens around some kind of plan or structure, while cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate. Cooperation is a driver of creativity. Stephen Downes commented here on the differences:
collaboration means ‘working together’. That’s why you see it in market economies. markets are based on quantity and mass.
cooperation means ’sharing’. That’s why you see it in networks. In networks, the nature of the connection is important; it is not simply about quantity and mass …
You and I are in a network – but we do not collaborate (we do not align ourselves to the same goal, subscribe to the same vision statement, etc), we *cooperate*
We are only beginning to realize how we can use networks as our primary form of living and working. David Ronfeldt has developed the TIMN framework to explain this shift – Tribal; Institutional; Markets; Networks. The TIMN framework shows how we have evolved as a civilisation. Ronfeldt sees the network form not as a mere modifier of previous forms, but a form in itself that can address issues that the three other forms could not. This point is very important when it comes to implementing social business (a network mode) within corporations (institutional + market modes). Real network models are new modes, not modifications of the old ones, and cooperation is how work gets done. Some examples:
Wirearchy: a dynamic multi-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology.
Heterarchies are networks of elements in which each element shares the same “horizontal” position of power and authority, each playing a theoretically equal role [wikipedia].
Chaordic refers to a system of governance that blends characteristics of chaos and order. The term was coined by Dee Hock the founder and former CEO of the VISA credit card association [wikipedia].
Combine the TIMN perspective with the Cynefin framework, and I created this table, looking at how work gets done:
Shifting our emphasis from collaboration, which still is required to get some work done, to cooperation, in order to thrive in a networked enterprise, means reassessing some of our assumptions and work practices. For instance:
The lessening importance of teamwork, versus exploring outside the organization may change our perceptions about being a “team player”.
Detailed roles and job descriptions are inadequate for work at the edge.
Collaboration is only part of working in networks. Cooperation is also necessary, but it’s much less controllable than our institutions, hierarchies and HR practices would like to admit.