Collaboration – Shaping our Futures Together
Collaboration is one of the areas that I’m personally passionate about. Collaboration can bring significant benefits and rewards for all involved.
I’ve been facilitating national and international collaborative projects for over a decade, from small business to business projects, international partner projects with budgets into tens of millions $/£/€, through to projects that link business, academia and government. I have also founded and successfully grown collaborative networks and a national collaborative research centre focused on industrial scale R&D to help fuel the growth of multiple businesses and the national economy, so collaboration really is an area that means a lot to me.
Pinnacle Growth Group regularly help our clients to collaborate across a range of projects, not just R&D. We find that because we have proven experience in successful collaborations, combined with our ability to be objective, adds real value to our clients and the project overall.
That being said, collaboration is an area that can also be challenging and require a lot of time and effort, and I can personally attest to that. Having facilitated a large scale collaboration between 17 national and multi-national companies and public sector organisations, you learn to be patient. You also learn the power of clear communication across the consortium and the benefit of having a plan with a high level vision that everyone has bought into.
Collaboration, in its simplest form, is about people and / or businesses working together toward a shared goal/s that generate benefits for all involved.
There are a vast array of reasons as to why you might want to enter into a collaboration, for example:
- To help you develop new knowledge that will help you develop a new product or service
- It will support you to enter into a new market
- One of the partners is a target customer and the project will provide a means for you to build a relationship with you
- You don’t have the resources to complete all the necessary steps required to make the project a success
- If you collaborated you could get the project completed sooner and with less risk
However the key reason is that through the collaboration you can fuel the growth of your business.
There may be a lot of people reading this who don’t have an interest in collaboration. This could be for a range of reasons, such as:
- Fear of the unknown
- Concern that others might try and exploit your organisation
- Not profitable
- Takes too much effort to build and manage relationships and deliver on actions
- My business is too small
However, I have personally helped a selection of organisations successfully enter into their first collaboration. I have even helped competitors work together in collaborative projects. So if competitors can do it, then so can you. One other point to consider, is that there are a range of funding mechanisms available that can be accessed to help establish and fuel your collaboration.
Even before the actual collaborative project begins, there is a lot of discussion needed between all the collaborative partners. These discussions will revolve around a range of areas, but will include:
- Agreeing Collaborative project Objectives
- Identifying the Time frame & budget required
- Discussing the Knowledge & resources needed for the objectives
- Identifying whom, within the group, can provide the required knowledge and resources
- Pinpointing knowledge & resource gaps and identifying who (externally) could help support these
It’s important to note, discussion and securing agreement on the above isn’t going to happen in one meeting. In reality it will take multiple meetings spread over weeks and potentially months, especially if there are lots of partners involved. There may also be additional complications when the topic of IP comes around. Whilst this is important, don’t let this be a boundary to you starting the collaboration. Naturally it is beneficial to agreeing IP arrangements right at the start, you can always finalise them at the early stage of your collaboration and base them around one of the multiple types of standard collaboration agreements that are available.
During the discussions, it’s essential that everyone focuses on the end goal and why each organisation is coming together for the collaborative project. This is important and can help during those meetings that don’t seem to be going to plan (even with the best of intentions these will likely happen).
I’m a big believer in process, therefore at each meeting, I will usually follow these simple formal actions:
- Set an agenda
- Assign a meeting chair to help keep focus on the agenda and making progress
- Write minutes and share them
- If actions are generated, make to assign owners and completion dates
Whilst this may seem over formalised, these actions will help you to keep track of progress and support focus.
In addition to these simple formal actions, you could consider the below as a means of helping to build relationships between the partners:
- Move around collaborative partners offices/facilities for the meetings
- Organise tours of each partners facility to show off the capabilities of the partners
- Making a point of discussing potential B2B opportunities (additional to the collaborative project) that may be feasible
Moving on from the formal and technical requirements to support a successful collaboration, there needs to be:
- Openness between partners,
- A willingness to share knowledge, resources, risk & rewards
- Acceptance that you will likely have to perform actions that will not directly benefit your organisation
But above all, there has to be trust between the partners. Trust is needed in a collaboration to support its success. If there is no trust, then the success of the collaboration will likely be impacted.
Hopefully through this brief article I have shed some light into collaboration and why you should consider it as an option to grow your business.
Whilst collaborations can be highly beneficial, successful collaborations really do take hard work, time and effort. They won’t happen overnight, it’s important to remember this.
If you would like to talk about collaboration and how your company can fuel its growth through the right collaboration, Pinnacle Growth Group are here to help.
By Dr. Scott King Ceng