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7.1: What is Collaborative Writing?

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    Learning Objectives

    Upon completion of this chapter, readers will be able to do the following:

    1. Define successful and effective collaborative writing.
    2. Explain and employ strategies for effective collaboration.
    3. Explain and employ strategies for dealing with differences and conflict.

    Perhaps you are just beginning your collegiate career, or you may be finishing it up. Either way, whether you’re someone new to college or someone who has been around the block for a period of time, you’ve probably had some experience working in a group or on a team of some sort. You’ve probably been a part of an athletic or academic team. Perhaps not. Perhaps you have some group experience from being a cheerleader, a boy scout or girl scout or a member of the 4H Club. Either way, I’m sure you’re familiar with the inner workings of a team or group environment.

    But have you been fortunate enough to work collaboratively in a writing capacity? Whether your answer is “yes” or “no,” this chapter is designed to help you look more closely at what it means to write collaboratively.

    In this chapter, we will focus on writing in groups or teams. Specifically, we will discuss collaborative writing, which differs slightly from team and group writing.

    • Collaborative writing defined
    • Successful collaborative writing
    • Ineffective collaborative writing
    • Pulling together your team
    • Strategies for effective collaboration
    • Tools for collaboration
    • Dealing with differences
    • Dealing with conflict
    • Finalizing the project
    • Reflecting for future projects
    • Activities and discussion

    What is Collaborative Writing?

    Collaborative writing, group writing, team writing, distributed writing – all terms used interchangeably to describe what it generally means to perform collective writing in a professional atmosphere. For our purposes, however, we won’t use all of those terms. Why? Because there is a vast difference between collaboration and working in groups or teams; thus, the terms collaborative writing differs greatly from team, group or distributed writing. We will refer to the act of writing together as collaborative writing.

    Collaboration involves a mindset that sees the whole as more important than its parts. In other words, when people decide to collaborate, they are deciding to set aside their individual goals for the good of the group or company they represent. Collaboration seeks to combine multiple skill sets, knowledge bases, ideas and engagement from a number of people for the sole purpose of accomplishing a goal that benefits all – regardless of position or title. A collaborative mindset is focused on company success more than it is individual success.

    Conversely, team and group writing tends to focus on gathering together for a period of time to accomplish a set goal for a certain project during a specific time or event. It does not necessarily entail a long-term, ingrained mindset that seeks constant success for the good of the company or group. So, collaboration differs from teams and groups because it requires every member of the group or team to take responsibility for the final outcome. It’s what happens, for example, when the parents of a child see the success of that child as the responsibility of both parents, not just one. Collaboration is the reason that companies such as Cisco and Coca Cola thrive. According to Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese, authors of The Collaboration Imperative (2011), a company’s success lies within the people they employ. “It’s not hiding in a budget spreadsheet or a warehouse full of inventory. It lies within your people – in their ideas, their experiences, their focus, their energy. The more you empower them to share their knowledge and skills, the more successful your organization will be. From ideas come innovation and new forms of productivity.”

    In their 2015 book Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, best-selling author and management expert Ken Blanchard along with co-authors Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew discuss what collaboration means. “Collaboration is a whole order of magnitude beyond teams. It’s in the DNA of the company culture,” they write. The authors continue, “It’s an environment that promotes communication, learning, maximum contribution, and innovation – which, of course, all lead to healthy profits.” Thus, successful collaborative writing stems from a company culture that invites collaboration not just writing by way of teams and groups.

    Collaborative writing, then, can be defined as...

    Writing that entails the collaborative efforts of a group of people who gather together to write documentation, produce images, provide subtext, and more in an effort to bring a project to completion. Members can work in spaces that are face-to-face or virtual. The main goal of collaborative writing is to produce the best work for the good of the company by including the ideas and skill sets of multiple authors.

    This page titled 7.1: What is Collaborative Writing? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Tiffani Reardon, Tammy Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Monique Logan, & Cassie Race.

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