So you want to explore the option of collaboration as part of your business strategy, what practical steps can you take to begin the journey.
Matchmaking for collaboration
Approach collaboration as if you were posting your profile on Tinder or RSVP, you need to understand and craft your profile and identify what you are seeking in a collaboration partner. Give it your best shot.
This is not all about you thought. It means considering what an ideal collaboration partner looks like (I won’t carry the ‘matchmaking’ metaphor to far I promise). One way to do this is to use the approach outlined by Doug Collins in ‘A blueprint for effective collaborative innovation’ which provides a planned approach to mapping your intent on a page.
Things to consider include
What market or area do you want to explore or what skills and expertise do you need?
Which partners will add value or amplify the goal you are seeking and of course how will they view the goal, does it align or support their mission. Put simply ‘what is in it for them’.
look for diversity not a ‘carbon copy’ of yourself or your business.
Don’t limit your vision but be realistic. Maybe consider collaborating with a slightly bigger business – you might learn from them and they might be will to support your growth and development.
Do your business values align – don’t underestimate the influence of a business and its people’s values in ensuring the success of the collaboration.
Consider your suppliers as potential collaborators – they often have expertise and resources beyond that of small or medium organisations/businesses.
A winning collaboration blueprint – 10 steps to success
- Committed leadership – with a sense of ownership and urgency about achieving the outcome to drive the collaboration.
- Unambiguous and realistic goals – these must be established in order to achieve a positive outcome. It is also worthwhile revisiting and revising these as the collaboration progresses.
- Clearly defined roles for players in each of the business involved. Ensure the collaboration fully utilises the skills and expertise of the relevant partner.
- Build the support and committment amongst each organisation’s staff – not only will this build success but makes the collaboration sustainable in the longer term.
- Allocated and dedicated staff time – move beyond inspiration and deal with the realities of achieving the collaborative goal. Map out the responsbilities and provide sufficient time and resource to enable the job to done well.
- Clear agreement and guidance for the collaboration. Establish the level of agreement appropriate for the project and support this with some key protocols (communication, authorities etc)
- Conduct regular meetings and structure frequent updates and communication to all involved.
- Build sustainable leadership and commitment to the collaboration and its goals.
- Embed evaluation of the collaboration itself (as distinct from the outcome).
- Develop an exit strategy or transition plan should a partner need withdraw.