There is no word in the English language more over-used by the commercial AV industry than “collaboration.” For the corporate, education and government markets, it has gotten to the point where any device that comes anywhere near a conference room or classroom is a “collaboration device.” A TV mount is a collaboration device.

In fact, it goes beyond the conference room and classroom to any device or technology that allows one employee or student to communicate to another. Manufacturers throw around the word “collaboration” along with “unified communications” and other fun buzz words when sometimes we’re really just talking about phones. Sure, they’re IP phones with a range of benefits and complexity, but they are still phones, something that’s been around for a century now. Of course, you’d never know that, because as an industry, we call it collaboration technology.

So, why the obsession with “collaboration?” Well, this is because corporations and schools are starting to realize just how important it is for employees and students to be able to effectively communicate with each other. Historically, learning and working were both singular processes, and the communication of information has been between the company and the employee or the teacher and the student. However, in recent years, there has been an increased focus on intercommunication and idea-sharing between employees and between students.

This is because, despite what traditional teaching models might have you believe, education is not limited to a single person standing at the front of a room lecturing to a group of rapt pupils. Rather, education is an intrinsically social prospect—and not one that begins at age 6 or ends at graduation. We humans are constantly learning, and when you facilitate learning between the individuals who have knowledge and those who need it, it can create an environment of rapid personal and/or professional growth.

This is why both schools and organizations have begun embracing methodologies to encourage knowledge sharing. The ability to use technology to share knowledge and co-learn between people across geographies has shown significant impact on education, and corporations are seeing a huge impact on their professional lives as well.

According to recent research by Aberdeen, one of the biggest drivers for learning and development within organizations over the next few years is the need for truly global knowledge sharing. It’s no wonder that they found best-in-class organizations are 73 percent more likely to engage in social learning through online collaboration tools and two times more likely to use user-created video content. These best-in-class companies realize that these technologies provide the ability to share many-to-many, accelerating the transmission of knowledge without cumbersome processes that would prevent them from being nimble.

This is ultimately what people really mean when they use that ubiquitous and ill-defined word, “collaboration.” Collaboration technology, whether in the corporate space or in education, is about facilitating the sharing of ideas between members of a group. When people work together to share ideas, they can learn from each other, building upon those shared ideas and taking knowledge to new heights.

Of course, the types of technology that help accomplish this goal are varied, which is why the term “collaboration” is used so often. At the end of the day, collaboration is not a piece of technology, nor will a single piece of technology guarantee collaboration. True collaboration requires people committed to the idea of sharing information for mutual success, and true collaboration technology ensures that information sharing can occur quickly, easily and across any distance. Collaboration is a process, and collaboration technology is an integrated system that facilitates that process.

What technologies do you use to collaborate? Tell us about them in the comments.