My late father used to say ‘you have to eat a kilo of salt with someone before you get to really know them’; meaning, it takes a very long time. In business, nobody gets that luxury thus the perennial challenge: how can you tell if collaboration with another party will work out.
We all know that, in collaboration, some factors matter more than others. Trust, for instance, seems to always top the list of those that are most important. Predictive analytics is an ever-improving field and I believe that a brighter future, as far as businesses being able to reduce the risk of bad collaboration, is now close.
While all that slowly percolates, ROADMENDER can share some lived experiences that may help future Chief Collaboration Officers to structure their approach and strategy to collaboration. Specifically, what are the tell-tale signs that your collaboration partner is worth your time?
In no specific order:
- Your collaboration partner is frank about their self-interest. In my experience, collaborators who understand that collaboration is about a balance between self-interest and shared interest are more likely to do well as partners. The idea is that you are able to openly state what all the parties want to achieve for themselves and understand that a shared interest will help all in helping each other to achieve individual goals as well.
- Your collaboration partner is more concerned with being respected than liked. We can’t help being humans and wanting people to like us. Wise people (unfortunately, for most wisdom comes too late in life) will tell you that expending energy into being liked is the most effective way to never be liked by everybody. Not suggesting one goes around poking people with an umbrella; just be real, fair and honest. I found that collaborators that seek respect will also show it to others; which is precisely where you want to be when collaborating.
- Your collaborating partner is comfortable showing you their ‘apprentice piece’. Words are cheap. What matters is the tangible and verifiable result. Anyone serious about collaboration should be able to show their work, which is really good indicator of what you can expect. Thus the apprentice piece; something that can be assessed just the way students used to be judged. A word of caution though; do not literally treat your potential collaborating partner as an apprentice.
- Your collaborating partner is flexible, adaptable and resilient. Often the very best intentions fall flat because parties do not get the simple truth about collaboration: it is very disruptive and can severely test business resilience. Therefore, engage in discussions that elicit your partners’ proven capacity to deal with disruption.
- Your collaborator can get past the ‘politeness’ stage. Edwin Land was right when he remarked ‘politeness is the poison of collaboration’. Far from urging people to be rude; the reality is that being obsessive about spending energy on making sure you are always polite prevents people from being free to engage in robust discussion. It is hard to get the best out of people who are holding back out of fear that they may inadvertently be rude.
These are only a few of the factors that should be the standard tool of trade for serious collaborators. It may seem like an interview because it should actually not be much different from an interview. Once you get that right, you will increase your chances of getting the desired results.