The purpose of this paper is to define the phenomena associated with virtual collaborative work from both a cognitive and social cognitive perspective. The authors put forth an approach that assumes all people are natural sense-makers, sense-givers and organizers. The authors posit that the collaborative work we observe within both informal (ad hoc teams or communities) and formal (organizational) environments derives from fundamental, ubiquitous cognitive and social behavior intimately tied to context-specific problems or situations. The paper begins by challenging the need to re-define terms like "virtual" and "team" in a manner which works to subtly shift the focus of study from "proximal vs. distributed" to the more fruitful "fundamental behavior vs. technological constraints." The paper then presents a framework for virtual collaborative work and discusses its implications on issues related to teams, leadership, creativity, and the design and use of information technology.