Collaboration: Tapping into the “Collective Genius”

​Currently, my partners and I are headlong into our year beginning strategic planning work. It has become quite clear that in order for us to achieve the greater vision for our coaching practice, we will need to join forces with other powerful, creative people and organizations. In other words, collaborate!

So, what is this exciting phenomenon called “collaboration”? Wikipedia defines it as:

When two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals; a deep, collective determination to reach an identical objective.

Drucker and Whitehead of the Harvard Business School wrote in 2000:

We live in a time when no organization can succeed on its own…As we look around us in a new century, we realize that businesses and non-profits in today’s interconnected world will neither thrive nor survive with visions confined within the walls of their own organizations. They need to look beyond the walls and find partners who can help achieve greater results and build the vital communities to meet challenges ahead.

When looking at the characteristics of a well formed, highly functioning collaboration, the following characteristics come to mind:

• Mutual respect, understanding and trust of its members
• Open and frequent communication
• A shared purpose and vision with essential outcomes defined
• Consensus decision making through open mindedness and compromise
• Members are stakeholders by pooling of resources and risk sharing
• Actions are coordinated and interdependent
• Mutual benefit through sharing in successes and rewards – a “win/win”

Collaborations can come in many forms such as: alliances, partnerships, consortiums, co-operatives, cross functional teams, continuous improvement teams, etc. Here are a few examples of successful business collaborations that started with individuals committed to excellence and an exciting vision for the future:

• Hewlett- Packard Corp. (Bill Hewlett and David Packard)
• The Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilber Wright)
• Edison Electric Light Company (Thomas Edison & J.P. Morgan)
• Microsoft (Bill Gates & Paul Allen)
• Apple (Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak)
• Google (Larry Page & Sergey Brin)
• McDonalds (Dick & Mac McDonald and Ray Kroc)
• Warner Brothers (Harry, Sam, Albert & Jack Warner)

An example of a collaboration of several organizations coming together for a common cause is “” which was co-founded by IBM, Intel and 38 other member firms in 2008. The mission of this high technology community is to advance the development and adoption of open blade server platforms through innovative collaboration.

When looking at your business or your organization, what are some compelling reasons for you to break free from the “walls” that constrain you to realize a bigger future by playing in a bigger game? Some to consider are:

  • Acquiring a needed skill or expertise that is lacking in your business or on your team (e.g., technical, marketing, financial, operational).
  • Accessing a broader market for your products and/or services
  • Adding complimentary products and/or services to provide a greater value-added solution to your customers
  • Gaining additional resources like funding, buildings, equipment, people, etc.

Whatever the reason, one good way to start your exploration into collaboration is by performing a S.W.O.T. analysis of your business, organization, and team.

Strengths - defined as areas where your organization excels. Strengths enable you to put your best foot forward, and set your organization apart from competitors.
Weaknesses - can be a deficiency of resources, skills or capabilities, excessive costs, lack of teamwork or lack of managerial abilities, and/or an inappropriate process to meet customer needs and wants.
Opportunities - represent significant and favorable situations in your organization’s environment that can directly and positively impact your activity to meet your customers’ needs and better serve your markets.
Threats - Competition, market trends, significant business growth or decline, technological changes, etc, can represent threats to the health of your business or organization.

Susan, Dave and I stand ready to assist you and your organization in charting a new course toward achieving an exciting vision of your future.