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The Collaboration Instinct: Part 1/3

Over the past 15-20 years collaboration has steadily gained increased recognition in different parts of the world as a genuinely enabling strategy. Different rationales have emerged suggesting a range of approaches; from the idea that collaboration is ‘new competition’ to the inescapable view that there is such a thing as ‘collaborative intelligence (CQ)”. All are valid concepts seriously worth exploring.

My own observation is that there exists a ‘collaboration instinct’. Over the next few weeks or so I will attempt to delve deeper into this idea in the hope that any collaboration practitioners out there might find some value in it.  In this first instalment I will start with the notion that collaboration is a form of strategic language which becomes interactive when contextualised into the strategic plan of any enterprise.

I understand that continuing an article with the suggestion that readers must first study their business plan is a sure way of losing an audience before I get a chance to make my point. However, I think the resilient and curious among you are likely to give me the benefit of the doubt. So, go ahead and take a peek into your business plan? Now, see how many KPIs are about collaboration!

Strategists have made a habit of tailoring business plans to enterprises by carefully avoiding challenging their customers. Instead they ‘facilitate’ the process, which is very different from designing an approach. Strategy is supposed to excite us and impart a sense of hope and confidence so that, when executed, strategy will emerge with a major sense of satisfaction. With this in mind, I think infusing collaboration into the process of strategy design, together with making it a KPI, is what will provide enterprises, regardless of their size and the industry they are in, with a unique platform for transformative competition.

The idea that collaborative action could offer transformative value is a part of what I call the ‘collaboration instinct’. It is embedded in every social form. It is hard to imagine any organisation that, at its core, does not instinctively understand the importance of joint action. What can differ broadly, however, is the form of the collaboration process. In some cases the process is heavily regulated and undeniably expensive to maintain. In others it is managed though a form of tradition and almost explicitly observed by a lack of formal structures.

I am very careful to avoid imposing a strict definition of what collaboration is. It would go against one of the key drivers of the whole ROADMENDER enterprise; i.e. developing a sense of collective urgency for furthering collaboration as a discipline in its own right.  However, I do wish to share one aspect of how I, as a collaboration practitioner, approach strategy design for any collaborative initiative. Collaboration is characterised by a process motivating two or more stakeholders to create aggregate value without any preconception or expectation that the process has to lead to an organisational or formal partnership. The latter can be an option but must not be part of any set preconditions for collaboration. This is critical throughout the process of collaboration as it minimises the emergence of false expectations. And it is on this basis that collaboration can function as “language”, enabling collaborating partners to jointly build and sustain the culture (brand) of their collaborative initiative.

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