How good is your word?: it may be all that collaboration needs to flourish.



There’s one thing that lies at the heart of excellence in almost every human endeavour; the quality of one’s word. Nothing comes close when it comes to collaboration and pretty much a whole raft of other things in life. Things like friendships, partnerships, family, and society and so on are all not truly possible without it.

How good is your word? Do you promise things easily? Do people value what you say; not because of how smart you sound but because you deliver on your word? No, I do not wish to enter into morality, ethics or a broader philosophical analysis. But I do want to underscore the simple fact that collaboration is an entrepreneurial activity that is more dependent on the quality of the collaborators’ credibility than skills. There is a simple explanation; collaboration invites risks into the process differently than does a standard partnership. The latter is largely built on an idea of co-operation, compliance and diligence. All is then kept in place through a system of a corporate governance, regulation and contracts. All of this is fine, but the collaborative approach goes one step further.

We know that we feel very different when we are trusted because we can keep our word. We also know that really devastating feeling we have when someone breaks their word. As a simple and quick thought experiment, imagine for a moment someone you know you can trust and note the associated emotions. Now, imagine someone you know that definitely does not fit into the trust category and then notice how your emotions change. Emotions aside, a lack of trust based on the non-credibility of what one says is, in simple terms, a deal breaker. Collaboration simply does not work without trust.

Now, for regular readers of the ROADMENDER blog, it should be clear that collaboration can actually ‘function’ with various degrees of trust. The collaboration brand I refer to is the deep, strategic activity that transcends a simple ‘let’s work together’ approach. It is the kind of collaboration where collaborators do not stop at ‘what we can do for each other’ but instead forge towards a collaboration which focuses on ‘what we can do for the market’.

An entrepreneurial attitude to collaboration is bound to lead to two things (at the very least):

  1. Increased risk
  2. Innovation that otherwise would be less likely.

Risk will occur for a simple reason; because collaborators are seeking opportunities in a way that traditional strategy does not work. Collaborators that trust each other and can operate with a currency of one’s ‘word’ are also free to explore opportunities beyond seemingly safe bounds. Innovation is a well-known value add of collaboration. It emerges differently than in a non-collaborative environment. Fuelled by trust, collaborators tend to ‘trade’ with currency such as knowledge, creativity, competition, a sense of play, optimism about the future, self-worth, and a host of other positive aspect of one’s behaviour. None of this should surprise us. Most people would instinctively be able to relate to the difference in work performance when we feel we are trusted, valued and respected and we are surrounded by likeminded people.


“Collaboration begins with mutual understanding and respect.”
Astronaut Ron Garan


Now it just so happens, as I was writing this blog, that I came across an interesting piece by Fida Chaaban, Editor-in-Chief for Entrepreneur (Middle East) magazine. The title of her article itself, “A Promise Is A Promise: Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew”, delivers a sound piece of advice with which I would like to finish this piece, and I encourage you to read the full article.

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