If there is one major obstacle that can threaten collaboration working at its best, it is the attitude of those who see collaboration as a perfect opportunity to be part of a group, but without having serious intent or capability to play a part. Good intentions simply count for nothing. Collaboration is a process where the risk can be high (and opportunity cost even higher) when a group of people can simply expect to get results based on ‘contribution’. The real deal in collaboration is expertise and the input of high quality elements, based on a ‘perfect score attitude’; i.e. doing one’s best.
That much is not hard to understand. The real work begins in accurately allocating precious time to a collaboration with real prospects. Real candidates for collaboration are not always easy to detect. Here I feel comfortable going even further in saying that, as a rule of thumb, one can be safe to assume the following default code:
“When offering to collaborate, most people will automatically indicate a readiness to do so, a few would show willingness, some will embark on it and a very exclusive minority will stick it out”.
This is something I find is a regular occurrence regardless of industry. One qualifying thing to mention here is that this ‘rule’ is slightly less applicable when there are existing, rich relationships and partnerships between businesses. I am mostly focusing here on new collaborative opportunities.
There are a few reasons why these things happen the way they do. Without retracing many previous posts and going into detail again now, it is worth repeating one simple point; collaboration is often not well understood beyond the proverbial ‘let’s work together’ interpretation and attitude. The majority of ‘keen’ candidates simply do not pay apt attention to the major building blocks of collaboration, i.e. intelligence, strategy, governance, risk and/or disruption to name a few. Again I repeat a mantra I’m fond of asking people to reflect on; “if collaboration does not change you, then you are probably not collaborating”.
So, how to move forward? At the elementary level act in good faith by allowing potential business partners to take their own time to think about collaboration. Provide them with the necessary time to reflect, research and think about collaboration as a strategy that, unless they are experienced practitioners, will most likely be a disruptive, and frankly at times uncomfortable, experience. No matter how well a business manager or leader one is, the collaborative way of creating value can be intimidating. Collaboration is like a muscle we never knew we had which, when we are forced to use it, can hurt a lot.
The second piece of advice is to focus the discussion on a disciplined approach. Collaboration is not something that can work well as an ad hoc, or ‘on and off’ process. It requires focus, attention and discipline from beginning to end. If your prospective collaboration partner does not have a track record that clearly shows these skills and capabilities then they are not going to magically emerge during the process of collaboration. A lack of discipline in your prospective collaboration partner is a big warning sign saying ‘walk away’.
Getting these two things right can save serious time and energy (and money); and can also help you to better identify what type of collaboration will best suit your business.