Police and lawyers tell us that you can’t solve a crime without knowing the motivation behind it. A ‘no motive no crime’ sort of logic. Businesses can’t work without a motive either. And the same goes for collaboration.
I would not suggest that collaboration enthusiasts befriend a criminal in order to learn about the motivation stuff, but spending time understanding the motive for collaboration is priceless. So many people declare a desire for collaboration nonchalantly. As admirable as it sounds, that should always, and I mean always, be put under scrutiny.
But the idea is not to project suspicion towards a potential collaborating business partner; the idea is to be focussed on what matters in the early stages of any potential collaboration. The top priority is to cut through the fog and distracting niceties and understand if your collaboration candidate has a motive. The right motive!
Only you will know what the ‘right’ motive will be for your business, and the job will be lot easier if you have a strong collaboration strategy in place. Even if you don’t, you should still be able to discern the right collaboration partner from the ‘me too’ kind.
So what’s in the motive? How can you work out if the collaboration will be a rewarding experience and not a total loss of time? For a start it is a good idea to remember that in most cases businesses still talk about partnerships as a much clearer form of collaboration. The idea of partnership is something that many businesses lean towards because of the regulatory clarity afforded to it. But what a classical partnership does is mostly confined to co-operative behaviour where each business entity agrees to a set of specific tasks. In most cases the contracts and agreements are drawn up and each side sticks to them. While this is fine in itself, collaboration goes much further.
In true collaboration, business entities seek to add value beyond agreed clauses in contracts. This means that in really good collaborations each party is not confined to thinking about only their own job, but also about the job of their partner. They add value that goes above and beyond what is listed in the agreement. This does not mean that collaborating partners should ignore their own work in order to undertake the jobs that are assigned to their partner. It is about having a broader awareness of their relationship with the partner/s. In every close collaborative relationship it is very normal that new ideas and solutions emerge through shared interaction. Being able to provide input to your collaboration partners business and knowing that they too will add value by, say making referrals to your business, suggesting new solutions, offering additional information or resources, all adds up nicely.
So, what does this kind of approach to collaboration tell us about the right motive? The most obvious point is the fact that real collaboration partners will be motivated, not only by their own interest, but also by the shared interest. Collaboration based on willingness to invest time and effort in a way that demonstrates commitment to the partner organisation is the best indicator of the right motive behind a business’ desire to collaborate.