Collaborative Learning in Organizations

Published May 10, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair


Collaboration and collaborative learning are processes that integrate people, systems, and technology.  They exist in organizations where there is trust, decentralization in the decision making process, and that practice openness and fairness in their communication systems.  This configuration is designed to satisfy the needs of the whole rather than a need for one individual’s participation to spearhead the decision making process in an effort to protect their own interests.  Collaboration offers a way for organizations and communities, for example, to address pressing issues like housing, crime, poverty, employment, and education.  Collaboration can be as simple as a conversation among associates, a motivational presentation to the public, or as complex as a structured project where participants are required to update information in real time (Blevins, 2001).  This research takes a look at the collaborative learning process and organizations that work together to obtain greater resources, help improve ineffective conditions and systems, and to achieve higher levels of recognition and rewards in a highly competitive marketplace.


A Closer Look

More organizations are joining people together in creative ways to help tackle issues that lie beyond the parameters of any one individual.  Peterson’s (2001) research reveals that in today’s global arena, employees that work together in collaboration can make the difference between a company’s failure and success.  To achieve a level of success, collaborative efforts must consist of the following components: (a) a shared vision, (b) clear and open communication, and (c) the establishment of genuine trust among the collaborators.  Working together cohesively builds stronger relationships that provide a foundation for further collaborative efforts because they are now more adept in finding solutions.  His study concludes that effective business collaboration can bring people together to increase performance and productivity for a competitive advantage (Peterson, 2001).

The ability of collaborative groups to persevere in doing constructive work also depends upon their success in resolving issues.  The key roles in collaborative efforts are trust and good communication during each phase of the process, especially when issues like mutual respect, attributions, political processes, expectations, and consensus are addressed.  In addition, organizations learn to work in a collaborative effort despite of such barriers like gender, race, and age.  In other words, complicated stereotypical effects that favor one demographic category over another have less determinate influences on the various gatekeepers who can obstruct the collaboration process (Peterson, 2001).

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Organizations Demonstrating Collaborative Cultures

The American Cancer Society is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the US.  Despite their size, the quality of their work, and maintaining a stellar reputation, they are an organization that believes they can only carry out their mission effectively by developing collaborative partnerships with other organizations.  For example, their teaming with Yellow Cab and United Checkers Cab, as well as other programs like Look Good Feel Better, helps bring awareness to raise funds for breast cancer research and other related patient programs.  As a result, they have pioneered a variety of approaches to promote collaboration with local, grassroots organizations to reach their public health goals (Mattessich & Murray-Close, 2001).

Scholastic institutions that address education and youth development within poverty-stricken regions are another example of collaborative learning at an organizational level.  These firms learned to collaborate with national nonprofit organizations to comprehend local needs and helped establish a reputation among the local populace to achieve their goals.


Fink’s (2007) research is focused on another driving trend that motivates firms to implement tools of collaboration.  These firms have adopted electronic communication tools as a means to facilitate collaboration.  These include the implementation of systems like discussion boards, instant messaging, and groupware.  These tools are used to facilitate communication and coordination without time and space limitations.  His studies focus on the organizational view of the impact and role of e-collaboration.  In this case, e-collaboration is conceptualized as a change-oriented capability that enables a firm to identify, integrate, and apply its knowledge assets to meet competitive demands.  In this context, e-collaboration potentially has three organizational roles: (a) coordination, (b) learning, and (c) innovation associated with efficiency or competitive impacts.  His study concludes that organizations in less dynamic business environments need e-collaboration for operational purposes, emphasizing coordination components, whereas companies in high-velocity business environments utilize e-collaboration for strategic purposes, emphasizing the learning and innovation roles (Fink, 2007).

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Shankman (2013) describes successful organizations as institutions that are comprised of people who work together in an atmosphere that is conducive to stability, good cheer, and led by leaders who are almost always the role models for the change they seek (Shankman, 2013).  Community leaders and inhabitants who engage in collaboration efforts to accomplish tasks can improve their civic conditions but also reinforce social fibers and increase the regions’ capacity to become more distinguished.  In conclusion, collaboration builds stronger relationships and can enhance social conditions in creative ways.  It offers communities a tool for improvement and introduces innovative opportunities to tackle issues.


Blevins, R. (2001, ). A study of association between organizational trust and decision-making, communications, and collaboration in comprehensive, regional institutions of higher education. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor, MI, USA: ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Retrieved April24 2013, from

Fink, L. (2007, Jul-Sep). Coordination, learning, and innovation: The organizational roles of e-collaboration and their impacts. International Journal of E-Collaboration. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from

Mattessich, P., & Murray-Close, M. (2001). Collaboration: What makes it work. St. Paul, MN: Wilder Publishing.

Peterson, M. (2001, February). International collaboration in organizational behavior research. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Chichester, US: Wiley Periodicals Inc. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from

Shankman, P. (2013). Nice companies finish first. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan Publishers.


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