Collaboration – a definition

Collaboration

Definition

  • to work with another or others on a joint project
  • something created by working jointly with another or others

Generally speaking we all understand what collaboration means. Essentially it is an arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly towards a common goal. They co-operate and interact with each other in ways that can encompass a variety of actions, such as communication, information sharing, cooperation, problem solving, and negotiation, with a view to achieving their common goal.
Trade originated with the start of expanded communication in these ancient times. Trading became one of the cornerstones of growth and expansion for people, who learned to barter goods and services from each other, when there was no such thing as a standard currency. Due to specialisation and division of labour, most people developed skills in a particular product or aspect of production, trading this for other products.
Collaboration in business today has a multitude of forms, from the simplicity of a partnership to the complexity of a multinational corporation. Collaboration between team members allows for better communication within the organisation and throughout the respective supply chains. It is a way of co-ordinating different ideas from numerous people to generate a wide variety of knowledge.
Due to the complexity of today’s business environment, collaboration in technology utilises a broad range of tools that enable groups of people to work together. Broadly speaking, any technology that facilitates the linking of two or more humans to work together can be considered a collaborative tool. Many large companies are developing “enterprise collaboration strategies” and standardising on a single technical platform to allow their employees, customers and partners to intelligently connect and interact.

“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration wonderful things can be achieved.”
Mattie Stepanek

And it is in the above mentioned “unity is strength” quotation that the potential of the aforementioned tools can be most seen in business today.
I can speak upon this subject with some authority. I have established several collaborative ventures that have used the individual skills and attributes of disparate individuals, with the increasingly dynamic and powerful internet tools, to create something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. As with any business venture there are associated benefits and potential pitfalls.
Some benefits are:

  • Increased creative input, we don’t have to have all the best ideas ourselves
  • Increased purchasing power from the collective entity
  • Potentially reduced fixed costs of buildings, etc, by utilising internet and web tools
  • Productivity by being able to specialise on each members individual core skills

Some potential pitfalls:

  • Commitment to the common goal
  • Equality of input and effort
  • Sharing of returns and profits

In my experience, it is vital to select the right partners and collaborators, and to consistently manage their respective input in exchange for the benefits. One more word of warning, however, collaboration requires leadership and there are always those individuals that operate with the maxim that “first among equals” has to be them. If you establish collaborative projects, communication to and management of all parties is essential. Be clear, firm and consistent.

Essentially, collaboration works but only if all parties want it to.

There are other reasons why collaborative working can be the perfect solution for you and your business.

Collaboration:

  • builds contacts and networking opportunities without the need for long drawn out contract agreements and negotiations
  • can be done on a quid pro quo basis
  • allows for the strengthening of relationships by building trust
  • creates synergy between else-wise remote products and service providers
  • forms a group of businesses with like minds and values without formal structure and costs
  • allows for flexibility and freedom of the individual to develop personally without “out-growing” the organisation
  • develops a kind of “brains trust” between members, so reducing the need to outsource or conduct lengthy tender processes

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Charles Darwin

So go ahead, collaborate – make your contacts your partners and create something that is greater than the sum of the component parts, including you.

Above article is an edited excerpt from “An A-Z of Ethiconomics” by Philip Birch
Available on Amazon, Waterstones and W H Smith Online

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