Collaboration is a watchword for the 21st Century. We have discovered that working together and engaging with complementary, non-competing businesses is always more powerful than working alone - we collaborate to accumulate. Even when there are elements of competitive overlap, so often found in the multi-faceted service businesses of today, we should be thinking about opportunities for 'coopertition,' as opposed to competition.
Collaborative partnerships are enabling. They can help you increase your revenues, reduce your costs and stay ahead of your competition. Through win-win cooperation, pooling of resources and leveraging off mutual strengths, alliances can help you maximise your opportunities whilst minimising your investment and risk.
As Neal Gandhi points out in his book, Born Global , "It's no longer a case of working with someone from a different department to create something innovative or high quality. It's about opening our doors to working with people and organisations outside the four walls of our traditional HQs, from different corners of the globe. That's how value is created in today's economy - through collaborative networks that provide more access to talent, skills, knowledge, information and ideas. Sharing opens up a wider resource pool."
Thomas and Penny Power are the founders of Ecademy, the online business network for entrepreneurs and small business owners. They talk about the difference between 'Institutional Thinking' and 'Network Thinking.' The former, which is 'Closed, Selective and Controlling' (CSC) is bumping up against the latter, which is 'Open, Random and Supportive' (ORS).
They accept that both styles are required, depending on the situation and scenario, but say that 'Network Thinking' is gaining ground against 'Institutional Thinking,' with its evolution presenting real challenges to executives in both large and small organisations.
For me, ORS is all about collaboration. If you are open to sharing and collaboration, you can create a community that is more engaged and inclusive, more active and participatory. In the online age, it won't pay to hide yourself away.
There are many businesses that are fearful of adopting an ORS approach. They are worried about giving away their trade secrets or losing their competitive advantage. In most cases, they are wrong. If they won't collaborate with their customers, suppliers, distributors and others, their competitors surely will.
"Growing up, the world was defined by the conflict between a democratic, free-market West, and a totalitarian, command-economy East," says Jasper Westaway, CEO of software collaboration platform oneDrum. "Most companies persist with an industrial age model that resembles the latter and not an information age model that favours the former. We are default closed, we are closed to success," continues Jasper. "If you want your business to thrive, become default open and open to failure. In practice, organisations never fail because they are too open; they fail because they are too closed."
This is an edited extract from my book, From Vision to Exit - The Entrepreneur's Guide to Building and Selling a Business, available in good book shops and on Amazon now. For further information visit http://www.guyrigby.com/