Meta Collab

This article is a part of the collaborative research project to develop a general theory of collaboration.
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A collaborative output is an essential aspect to all collaborative processes, whether the desired outcome is finite or ongoing, or whether or not the outcome was ultimately deemed a success or failure.

Collaborative output is currently listed as a
first class collaborative element,
meaning it is an element of all human collaborative situations.

Types of collaborative outputs[]

The nature of the collaborative output varies with the characteristics of the participants and the collaborative media, and may vary throughout the course of the process.

Output as outcome[]

The output of a collaboration may take the form of an outcome, being tangible, objective and finite. This type of output is typical of consciously planned collaborations with a specifically desired outcome. However this type is also typical of face-to-face collaborations with the objective of day-to-day problem solving.


  • Waging war
  • Writing and publishing research paper
  • Retrieving keys locked inside a car
  • Organising neighborhood child care

Output as process[]

The output of a collaboration may take the form of a process, being intangible, subjective and ongoing or finite. This form of collaboration is typical of more intimate, informal relationships with the outcomes being unspecific.


  • A discussion
  • Cultivating and maintaining a successful ongoing friendship
  • Membership in a formalised group like clubs, political parties or interest groups

Output as mixed outcome and process[]

The output of a collaboration may also be a combination and/or gradation of a process and an outcome typology with the ongoing process occasionally producing discrete outcomes. Mixed output collaborations are a common feature of businesses and organisations of all types, often guided by a common aim or mission statement.


  • The total activities of Meta Collab).
  • The ongoing activities of a (music) band
  • Marriage or an equivalent social contract

Output versus outcome[]

An essential aspect of collaboration is that the outcome is emergent, meaning that it is the result of many non-linear, highly complex interactions and thus cannot be predicted by current methods or technology. One cannot determine ahead of time exactly what the outcome will be based upon the collaborative domain, the participants and their incentives. Therefore a collaborative outcome is unique to a specific collaborative domain, and cannot be determined as a guaranteed result of the collaborative process. This is often a frustrating element of collaboration, with many outcomes ending unsatisfactorily, leading many to be wary of the collaborative process. Part of this collaborative research project, is to determine factors and dynamics which may be identified for fine tuning and optimising in collaborative situations.

Since the term ‘outcome’ refers essentially to a final, steady state, the term only applies to collaborative outputs which fall into this type. Since many collaborative efforts are geared towards an ongoing process, and/or fall short of successfully completing their objectives (especially in complicated, pre-planned situations – collaborations which arise without planning or conscious effort may be more predisposed to success), to say that all collaborations have an outcome may be misleading. However, all collaborative processes once begun have an output, in that once a collaborative process is underway, that process is producing something, whether it is the ongoing process, an outcome in whole or part, or incidental information which does not immediately contribute to the desired outcome.

Further research into the nature and variety of collaborative outputs and determining means of measuring them, both as they are being produced, and as a final outcome, may shed light on how to better come to successful collaborative processes and conclusions.