If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative. – Unknown. Perhaps it’s due to the upheaval triggered by the global economic uncertainty or maybe the seeds were planted in the 1990’s but there is more talk about collaboration. This could be an underestimated strategy to growing your business.
Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff write in
# 1. Looking internally, how do people collaborate in your SME?
Collaboration depends on leadership modeling and fostering effective communication. Without effective communication, working well together for a common purpose is not going to happen.
- How often do you use face to face meetings, telephone, instant messaging or an internal chat service?
- What messages about working together or solo are predominant in your organisational culture?
Years ago, a client told me that she encouraged honest communication and teamwork. When I learned more about the actual culture of the company, it was rife with conflict and defensive alliances.
If you say one thing and do the opposite, your staff will do as you do. When the leader of the business is willing to act more like a team captain and actively encourages people to interact and participate, there is more ownership and engagement by everyone.
Related: Competition Versus Collaboration
# 2. Now shift your attention externally
We’re all familiar with giving referrals to people in our network. This type of cooperation is certainly transactional in nature. But this is just the beginning of the possible ways we could cooperate and be exponentially better.
SME Community fosters collaboration
One example of a group that makes cooperation a central value is the SME Community formed by Kehlan Kirwan, Debi Harper and Debbie McDonnell. This Irish business network fosters connections and collaboration through the use of social media and in-person events.
When we look within our network, we might find some very interesting mashups. A mashup is when you take two (or more) ideas from different industries or disciplines and combine them to make a third idea.
Now, imagine what could happen if you formed a partnership with someone in your network. You could express this collaboration by developing a seminar that serves a particular clientele that you share with this colleague or even form an entirely new business.
The Business Coalition mashup
A good example of a mashup is The Business Coalition , an organisation that assists SME’s and other companies expanding and conducting business in the United States. This non-profit organisation was formed by Dennis Warren (developer of online business news and information sites), Kate McDonough (founder and president of Waterfield Business Center, provider of virtual offices) and Edward Tarlow (founding partner and attorney of Tarlow Breed Hart and Rodgers).
# 3. Redefining how business gets done
While business is understood as being highly competitive, there are business owners who do not espouse that a “go-it-alone” mentality is the only way to grow revenues.
- By fostering collaboration within your business, you’re encouraging the cross-pollination of ideas and practices.
- This sets up your organisation to be much more agile, innovative and likely to weather economic turbulence.
- When you collaborate with complementary professionals and create partnerships, mashups or brand new ventures, you create evangelists and targeted access to potential customers.
Collaborating internally and externally provides the ingredients for high positive performance of your small to mid-sized enterprise.
What examples of cooperation have you seen work well for SME’s? How strong is the current trend for collaboration in the business world?