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Collaboration Glossary

Written by 
Brianna Hansen
 and 
  —  
August 18, 2022
Jump to a letter ➡️  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Let's put a stand-up on the calendar so we can ensure we're all aligned on what asynchronous collaboration will look like on our hybrid team so that we can achieve synergy and get our deliverables across the finish line without a lot of bottlenecks. 

Uhh … what?

Collaboration itself is pretty straightforward — it's simply the act of working with other people toward a shared goal. And yet, it's somehow full of enough jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords to make your eyes glaze over. 

If you've found yourself scratching your head and spending an embarrassing amount of time decoding emails, this collaboration glossary will help you make a little more sense of the most commonly used terms. 

A

Accessibility

The practice of making collaboration — including all of the tools, information, and resources necessary to work together — easily available to everyone on the team. That includes people who might have diverse abilities. 

Active listening

Intently listening to someone using all of your senses, with the intention of comprehending, retaining, and sometimes even summarizing the information they share with you. 

Alignment

The process of uniting a team and getting everybody on the same page. This usually involves clearly explaining the shared goal or vision, describing how that goal contributes to bigger company objectives, and breaking it all down into clear tasks, owners, and deadlines. 

Asynchronous (Async)

Two or more events or experiences that don't occur at the same time as each other. 

Asynchronous collaboration

A type of collaboration that allows teams to communicate and work together without having to do so simultaneously in real time. Team members are able to contribute at different times. For example, team members can add their own ideas and information to a shared MURAL whiteboard when they choose — they don't need to be online at the same time to work on it together. 

B

Bottleneck

A sticking point in a project or process that halts or significantly slows down progress (and ultimately causes delays, frustration, and maybe even missed deadlines). 

Brainstorming

A structured group session or discussion focused on generating new ideas or identifying creative solutions to problems.

C

Collaboration 

The action of working together with someone else — whether it's one other person or a team of people — to create something. Collaboration can occur remotely, in-person, or a mix of both, as well as asynchronously or in real-time. 

Collaboration design

Facilitating intentional teamwork through playful and provocative methods of visual thinking to take ideas from imagination to activation. This discipline inspires teams to connect and innovate together.

Collaborative intelligence

A systematic approach that connects teams to unlock their genius — taking insights and ideas from possibility to reality. Collaborative intelligence combines proven practices with digital collaboration spaces and insights into how teams work together.

Collaborator

A person who actively contributes to a shared task, project, or activity with other people.

Communication

The process of conveying and sharing information with other people. More than simply speaking to others, communication can occur in a lot of different forms, including written, verbal, nonverbal, and even visual. It can also happen in-person or digitally. 

Connection

The feeling that occurs when team members are united with each other through a shared purpose, supportive bonds, and inclusivity. 

Cooperation

The act of contributing to a shared project or task. While cooperation and collaboration are often used interchangeably, collaboration better describes a highly-connected team that works together collectively while cooperation is better used for individual people or teams who contribute their own isolated, individual sections to the whole.

Culture

The overall personality, feeling, or "vibe" of a team, dictated by their shared values, beliefs, attitudes, approaches, and behaviors. 

D

Design thinking

A popular methodology and process for creative problem-solving. When using design thinking methodology, you focus on navigating problems like an actual user to get hands-on experience with a product and come up with ideas and solutions that meet a real need. 

E

Emotional intelligence

The ability to identify, understand, and appropriately manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of other people on your team. 

Engagement

The level of enthusiasm, commitment, and connection that a worker feels toward their role, their team, and their entire company.

F

Facilitation

The act of guiding team members through conversations — whether it's a team meeting, brainstorming session, training, or something else — to accomplish a specific goal. 

Facilitator

The person actually doing the facilitation of the meeting or conversation. The facilitator is the one who will highlight shared goals, guide discussions, ensure inclusivity, and generally put up parameters to help the group have a more productive conversation and work better together. 

Feedback

A response specifically intended to give someone detailed and helpful information about how something (whether it's a tool, a product, a process, or even a person) is performing. 

H

Hybrid

A work arrangement that allows employees to work from the office, a remote location, or a mix of both. 

I

Ice breaker

A lighthearted and low-pressure activity that is meant to help foster a sense of community and build rapport between colleagues. Ice breakers come in all forms, but are typically based on questions or challenges posed to the group that allow participants to give appropriate (and sometimes humorous) answers. 

Ideation

The process of coming up with new ideas, particularly directions, opportunities, and solutions for the team or company. 

Imagination worker

Employees who think creatively to envision new possibilities for a process, project, team, or even entire organization and then take steps to make their vision a reality. 

Inclusivity

The process of ensuring that all employees — regardless of their background — have the same opportunities, resources, and space to share their ideas and feel valued for who they are. 

Innovation

The process of thinking outside of the box to come up with fresh and creative ideas and solutions. The term "innovation" can also be a noun that describes the result itself. 

M

Methods

Specific and structured approaches or frameworks that help guide teams through their work together. 

P

Participation

The act of chipping in and playing an active role in a team activity, whether it's a meeting, process, or project. 

Process

A reliable and defined set of steps that, when followed, help a team achieve a specific goal with less errors and confusion. 

Psychological safety

A team environment characterized by mutual respect, in which everybody is comfortable speaking their minds, taking risks, and trying new things without fear of judgment or repercussions. 

R

Remote

A flexible work arrangement where employees collaborate and do their work from a location they choose, rather than from a traditional office space they share. 

S

Stakeholder

A person who has an interest in a team or business activity, project, goal, or strategy and will be affected by it — even if they don't actually play an active role in it themselves. 

Synchronous

Communication or collaboration that occurs at the same time, like a team's live brainstorming session. Synchronous collaboration doesn't need to happen in the same place — it can occur remotely. But, it does require that people work together in real time — often referred to as “sync up.”

T

Team

A group of people who work closely together to accomplish a shared goal. 

Teamwork

The actual process of banding together, doing the work, and taking steps toward the team's shared objective. 

V

Visual collaboration

Using non-verbal ways to communicate and express ideas. This could mean drawing a picture, sketching a graph, or even making a list.

W

Warmups

Short exercises performed at the beginning of a meeting to introduce new team members, conquer awkwardness, and help teammates get to know each other. An ice breaker is a type of warmup. 

Whiteboarding

The process of using a whiteboard during team meetings to visually share concepts and generate ideas with each other. This doesn't need to be a physical whiteboard — a virtual whiteboard offers the same space for creativity without restricting people to be in the same location.

Workflow

A predefined set of tasks or actions that, when followed, leads to accomplishing an objective or producing a deliverable. 

Making sense of collaboration

Feel like you need an encyclopedia, dictionary, and a thesaurus to understand the ins and outs of collaboration?

Go ahead and leave them on the bookshelf. This glossary will help you and your team work better together, without all of the confusion and crossed wires.

👉 Ready to take collaboration even further? Try MURAL (it’s free … forever). 

About the author

About the authors

Brianna Hansen

Sr. Integrated Content Manager
Brianna is a storyteller at MURAL. When she's not writing about transforming teamwork, she enjoys swimming, cooking (& eating) Italian food, reading psychological thrillers, and playing with her two cats.