July 15

Commercial Collaboration: The Operating System of the Future

A new methodology of collaboration is necessary to keep pace with the speed of today’s business environment, according to Janine Garner

THE PHENOMENAL speed of change that got us to the 21st century’s technological frenzy is not going to slow down any time soon – and it is creating an uncertain future on a global business level. There is an ongoing war between the need for stability and the need for growth. It is up to each of us to actively listen to the demands of this society and evolve how we operate accordingly so that what we do aligns with – and leads – the new paradigm

We live in a highly connected world. The constant transformations happening on both domestic and global levels are affecting us as we try to maintain balance in our personal lives while striving for our dreams. Business is under pressure – evolution within society demands constant innovation and invention in product design, delivery, communication, marketing and customer service, as well as in business itself, from office layouts to organisational structures, from leadership styles and culture to working hours and communication platforms.

Societal evolution is driving a feeling of uncertainty about what the future will hold – especially for Gen X and the Baby Boomers, who have had both financial and philosophical certainties stripped away over the last decade. For these two generations in particular, who make up the majority of the leadership pool at present, this feeling of the unknown is resulting in business methodology regression.

Regression to what? To the comfort of the known, of protecting ‘me’, when what is actually needed is the courage, confidence and bravery to move to the new operating system of ‘we’ – one that will enable leaders to create the solutions needed to future-proof personal, business and team successes.

Those who are willing to be a part of a col-laborative working environment are doing so because they want to be challenged. They want the opportunity to constantly learn from others, and to share what they’ve learnt. To engage on an intellectually challenging level with like-minded thinkers. To see their own business benefit from the knowledge of specialists. To be happy knowing that they are on the edge of technological advancement, constantly pushing the ‘what if ’ button – because as a team, they feel secure enough to take risks.

Moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’
The concept of commercial collaboration and the move from the ‘me’ space to the ‘we’ space is not for the faint-hearted. It’s for those who can see the far-reaching benefits of what the ‘we’ space is about — and yes, it is a gradual move, one that involves challenging thinking. But it is not something one has to contemplate in solitude.


Leaders who are already operating in the ‘we’ space:

  • Are able to think big
  • Recognize the need to act as a team
  • Embrace fears and vulnerabilities
  • See the value in helping others see their worth
  • Actively engage with others
  • Act with bravery
  • Promote based on merit, irrespective of gender or age
  • Are innovative
  • Disrupt the status quo
  • Lead with a questioning spirit
  • See what commercial collaboration brings to an entrepreneurial mind


This new operating system is one where:

  • Networks of connected individuals, communities and businesses work together to drive success
  • We can bring our skills, strengths and talents to the table, and together amplify and share expertise to create progressive, results-oriented solutions
  • Collective intelligence means we work smarter and quicker together
  • Diversity and difference of opinion is actually the new competitive advantage
Commercial collaboration:
  • Creates momentum
  • Drives new thinking
  • Builds resilience and determination to succeed
  • Enables individuals and businesses to explore possibilities and develop strategies to future-proof success

Every part of the ‘we’ space has the backing of others. Overcoming fear and facing up to vulnerability are done with full disclosure and honesty, with the knowledge that by sharing your fears, you are empowering not just yourself, but those who work with and for you. You are giving the team the opportunity for empowerment and trust.

When you disrupt the status quo, when you disturb the accepted and the everyday, you are forging a new strength and getting rid of the weak and humdrum, which bog down business decisions and keep processes stale and stagnant. In the spirit of openness and full disclosure, you are not moving secretively, but so that those in your team or circle of excellence are aware of your thought processes and why you are taking the actions you are. In this way, you have backup – and trust in your actions.

Understanding the power of your network and using its potential is intrinsic to the ‘we’ mentality. To care about the wellbeing of those who are connected to you through business similarities or ethical focus or a desire to advance the same cause – while expecting nothing in return – creates a fantastic opportunity for collaborative relationships, and also for a true value exchange, where ‘what’s in it for me’ turns into ‘what can I do for you’.

The ‘we’ space is not a pipe dream. There are businesses and leaders who are clearly succeeding by operating within this framework. It is the centre of discussion among academics, thought leaders and consulting groups. Those corporations and entrepreneurs who are using the space well, and understand the shift in thinking needed to get there, are seeing procedures streamlined, the bottom line coming up, and employees happier and more engaged. Their ‘communities’ are becoming actual communities.

It is not enough, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, to ‘lean in’ to future-proof our success, our businesses and our careers. For leaders who are taking teams into an uncertain future, it’s now about leaning outand collaborating with others. Because to lean out means to embrace and engage on an unforeseen aggregated level – where thinking bigger than ever before will bring rewards to a collective commercial mind.


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