A young women stands before a gathering of start-up founders and asks for help from anyone eager to assist. Her passionate appeal to a room brimming with ideas of likeminded people is met with friendly gestures of approval and support. More ideas sprout from people’s lips; all offering an amazing array of solutions to all kinds of challenges our society faces on a daily basis. Many of these ideas are not necessarily completely new but they all come with an innovative twist – not to mention high hopes of success.
A young man speaks about mentoring his peers who have recently migrated to Australia and don’t know anyone. Another gentlemen is set on finding a way to start building houses for the homeless, and another simply seeks to put his wealth of corporate experience into practice by helping start-ups learn new skills and reach their goals as founders.
Such was the evening at a recent meet-up organised by a new start-up in Brisbane that is aiming to create better opportunities for skilled professionals who wish to apply them for social good. All this was only a small slice of the vibrant emerging start-up culture in our river city, that is about to host the most powerful group of world leaders – the G20. The buzz also very clearly embraces collaboration as a norm.
As it has been noted in a recent study of the state of collaboration in Australia, the last three years have seen an almost 40% increase in the practice. Specifically this is related to intra-organisational collaboration, a major driver of which is a change in culture and a better understanding of the competitive capacity of collaboration.
The demand for collaboration by employees is growing and this shows in the start-up culture as well. They all seem to refer to each other as collaborators. Naturally, as a strategist specialising in all things collaboration, I try to understand and decipher this buzz so that I can be of better of use to those who are now increasingly recognising that business can grow much better when it is built on a collaborative strategy. This seems to be the case regardless of whether the business is a small, young energetic start-up or a large mature company. Some evidence indicates that businesses that pay no serious attention to collaboration are seriously disadvantaged in terms of competition. In fact, only one in five such businesses can outperform the competition.
A message I am fond of repeating is that, if collaboration does not change you then you are probably not doing it right. I arrived at this conclusion a while ago after comparing different outcomes of collaboration. Now this has been confirmed by solid results of a recent survey by Deloitte Access Economics. All very satisfying stuff, and all of which gives me confidence in the thriving start-up culture, which unlike traditional business is not dependent on geography or political power centres. What’s more, it is clearly obvious that the new generation of value creators understands the fact that we produce value by our capacity to solve problems, invent new things while innovating at the same time, embrace disruption and tell new kinds of stories.
One of the things I notice is how new start-ups have resolved what is sometimes referred to as ‘polarity’. Many businesses are still frightened of collaboration because they believe that to collaborate means not to compete. And yet the start-ups are approaching that polarity in their stride. The fact that many things we consume on a daily basis, from music, to health to financial services, are often a product of clever collaboration is now a regular occurrence. This has led to many to intuitively understand collaboration and in turn to approach it differently. Asking a competitor for assistance and offering some in return is nothing more than a different way of creating value. Creativity, collaboration, intuition and self-expression are all factors in the new order of things, and are clear markers of a shifting paradigm in the workplace, marketplace and society in general. And remember, competitors are not enemies. They are the same people we also want to see as our clients and partners.