Are you really collaborating or just connecting?
Posted 5 years ago
Collaboration has become a bonafide buzzword. Its meaning is turning fuzzy, so often interchanged with cooperation, connecting, networking.
Maybe that’s why a lot of organisations feel like they’re failing at it, not gaining an advantage from it – collaboration isn’t working for them, not with external partners, not even within their own ranks.
Why is it so hard to turn this good intention into value-rich outcomes? Whether trying to collaborate across internal divisions or with other organisations, it seems to be a major stumbling block.
Impact Innovation has run or participated in plenty of ‘collaboration’ activities over the years – business ‘speed dating’, networking events, conferences and the like. And we’ve become increasingly concerned about the lack of collaboration truly resulting from these activities. Sure, people swap business cards and brag about what their business can do, but not much happens after that.
Here’s when the ‘ah ha’ moment stopped me in my stride.
I’d been meeting with a start-up company that has a fast car-charging technology and the founders were facing some road blocks.
Around the same time, I was talking to a company that has a turbine technology that could significantly increase power generation from solar cells – and they also had a battery of challenges.
It made sense to put them in touch with each other because they had overlapping challenges. The discussions are ongoing.
The key lesson is that if they did not communicate their challenges to us, then we wouldn’t have been able to link them.
Networking and office get-togethers allow us to identify useful contacts, focus on our strengths, and suss out potential customers as well as the competition. It’s a start, but often superficial.
Collaboration takes the connection further and engages us on a deeper, more vulnerable level. Rather than finding people to buy or buy-in, it’s about finding others who can help.
Expressing our challenges and problems means exposing our weaknesses. It also demands a readiness to trust and share, which rarely comes naturally.
This insight has led to our development of a unique collaboration approach that enables participants to communicate challenges in a non-threatening way and to identify people or organisations that can help with those challenges.
The outcomes have been amazing. As someone who is not a fan of ‘engineered getting to know you activities’, probably one of the best feedback comments that we received from an equally sceptical participant was this: ‘I normally dread interactive exercises but I believe that part of the evening was really good and beneficial’.