Walker Evens, a famous American photographer, once remarked that when it comes to innovation “It takes more than originality to do something nobody else has done. Among other things it takes oblivion to good conventions.”
Can that insight be of value when it comes to business partnerships or collaborations of any kind? I think there is a major lesson in the idea that conventions can be subject to innovation, particularly in collaborative spaces. As we observe transformation of the workplace and our attitude to work we can also recognise new opportunities whereby collaborations between different enterprises are full of unconventional possibilities.
One possibility may be in approaching a partnership as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end.
The underlying idea is that good collaboration can act as a stimulus for new ideas, knowledge insights and new business opportunities. Good practices and collaborations can stimulate economic interaction and trade. Corporate social responsibility does not have to be exclusively about addressing social and/or environmental needs. Instead of reacting to challenges, partnerships themselves can act as stimuli for growth and sustainability.
Partnerships do not have to be exclusively strategies to solve social issues, but can also be catalysts that seek new challenges that are identified after a partnership is formed.
Conventional partnerships are borne after parties identify goals and then work forward. Sometimes forming an entrepreneurial partnership to seek opportunities may produce opportunities that could not be identified otherwise. Corporates do not have to look for social and community engagement projects to invest, but instead look for suitable partners first. Investing in partnerships first and ensuring cultural compatibility is a way of maximising the capacity that partnerships can bring.
When a partnership is formed with the view that future issues could be identified, analysed and tackled on the basis that the relationship has matured, the cost may be smaller and chances of success higher. This is important because it is wrong to assume that social issues, be they homelessness or anything else, are in fact issues that affect all sectors of society. True partnerships are about operating from a foundation of good faith, trust and very good understanding of your partner’s capacities.
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