– Jennifer Ritchie Payette
Last week, I had the enormous pleasure of listening to Arianna Huffington speak at a Business Chicks function in Sydney, and was thrilled when she spoke about the need to move from a ‘competitive’ way of doing business to that of a ‘collaborative’ workspace. Obviously this is a topic near and dear to my own heart and mind, and it’s precisely that melding – of working with both our hearts and minds – that I wanted to discuss.
Often when people talk about working collaboratively, there still seems to be quite a bit of, to put it bluntly, scorn attached to it, particularly within traditional corporate structures. As leaders we have always been encouraged to walk our own path, to forge our way to the top in a fairly ruthless way with little engagement and often, with very little assistance. ‘Collaboration’ is still seen by some as an airy-fairy concept – a kind ‘hug it out’ team exercise used to raise morale, rather than a firm concept to base future business practices on.
But the truth of the matter is this.
To succeed in a climate of uncertainty, mistrust, and rapid-fire technological change, the only constants we have are each other – so how are we to proceed and succeed if we aren’t willing to trust and engage, rather than isolate ourselves and forge ahead alone? There is absolutely nothing wrong with healthy competition, and wanting to have a bottom line that is a nice solid black rather than a glaring shade of red, but when it is a matter of always turning inwards, and not being willing to share ideas, to look outwards and see the value in what others have to offer – then it becomes an issue. That is when we close ourselves off and start to lose through stubbornness and business pride.
There are so many real-time examples of companies and entrepreneurs who are willing to put aside traditional boundaries and think outside the corporate square for the good of each others’ futures, that it’s impossible to be blind to the benefits of a collaborative commercial space.
I have spoken before in this blog about the groundbreaking work of NASA and LEGO collaborating on modelling but that’s just one example, as is Coca-Cola working with ECO Plastics in the UK to reduce greenhouse emissions and improve recycling methods. Reebok, Desigual and Cirque du Soleil work together to produce a range of exercise gear and programs, as do PUMA and Sagem (Smartphones) and Adidas and Sennheiser (sports headphones). The common thread in every one of these examples is the realisation by their management teams of the inherent value that a collaborative approach provides. Without the input of a sporting goods company for example, the technical gurus are not going to get the best feedback on what an athlete wants; without the technical excellence, the athletics side of the equation will fall down in terms of clarity of sound and functionality.
The crossover is what makes the products pop.
And of course, when all is said and done, what makes a company shine is not what it produces, but the people that do the producing. It is those who ideate and create, who put their hearts and minds into creating innovative products and concepts who are the true ‘shares’ of any company. So ask yourself this question as a leader, and as a broker in your own business:
Do you want to make an investment in your future, or in your past?
If your answer is ‘the future’, then be prepared to collaborate, not just compete.