Collaboration is one of those words that immediately makes us feel good because it implies friendship and giving. We all enjoy collaborative events: a warm fire or barbecue, family and friends all together for a birthday or an anniversary. Yet a failure rate of collaboration in business is incredibly high.
Collaboration works when we know and trust each other, but the moment someone takes something without asking that trust is eroded.
GA Consultancy survey of nearly 800 country in 2011 showed a major consensus that collaboration was the most fundamental activity for successful innovation. This is because no company in these times can own all the knowledge it needs for new products or services. Our world is moving too fast. Knowledge is growing too rapidly.
In the later stages of innovation , product development and new product introduction, we tend to operate in close or "cluster" networks. Trust is higher ,communication better and collaboration is more successful. It is in the early stage of the innovation process where collaboration is more difficult. This is where diverse and dispersed networks are needed and because of this trust levels are lower. The raw material of innovation is less tangible in these early stages and so accusations of intellectual property theft become prevalent.
As an antidote to IP theft, company engage in legal and financial negotiations and yet this is not the answer.
When we meet new collaborators we engage in the early discovery process and this is exciting. We tend to ignore the aspects of the other person that are different. Instead constantly look for common grounds. When we initiate collaboration we need to fully understand the behavior of our new best friend. It is vital to invest time in understanding diversity and why other people do things differently.
My book, Strategic Management: Putting Things In Proper Perspectives , 2nd edition, 2012, has been adopted as the course book for an innovation course in Asia. Before engaging in innovation projects students use a self assessment tool on the book to better understand the different modes of behavior in their diverse project teams
My work with ISO engages me in collaborative work with people around the world and I form friendships with some far more easily than others. To quote an old saying, "my roots are showing" and I gravitate easily towards people who have a Filipino and a Duensanon-Ilongo heritage like myself..
It's those Duenasanon-Ilongo roots which makes us feel safe, share the same jokes and trust each other. We naturally gravitate to people who mirror our own values and behaviors. As result we form closed or " cluster" networks very easily. These networks are great for getting things done, but are not good for generating new ideas.
For successful innovation, comfortable collaboration doesn't give the essential jolt that releases new ideas. In the ISO technical committee to which I belong , we get that jolt from other cultures whether it is China, Germany, Japan or Mexico. We learn to work with different cultures and I have made many great friends over the years from across the globe. If you want to develop new ideas you have mix with people who may be outside your comfort zone , take time to understand them and freely give your ideas to them in order to get ideas back from them.
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