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Why You Cannot Go Alone

April 4, 2011

When faced with lightning fast changes to core technology why try to solve everything yourself? In an uncertain marketing landscape why choose to cross it alone?  As Kevin Kelly pointed out in a great piece from mid-2010 the smartest businesses form alliances, build collaborations and use the power of networks to get an advantage.

Working with partners, brands and organisations can share the development risk, move quicker and learn from each other. There is no doubting Kelly’s good sense. Yet research consistently shows that despite an increasing enthusiasm for seeking smarter, more innovative relationships and models most businesses either choose not to collaborate and even when they do they underestimate the task and investment required to keep them.  I was reminded of the Kelly article over the past few weeks as I met various colleagues from across industries and organisational types all of whom are developing and managing various portfolios of partners. And a common theme emerged from them all. Whilst the practical and commercial benefits of the relationship are often clear and leaders within the organisation expressed an enthusiasm ‘to have partners’  – most were oblivious to the demands of managing and retaining them. The old adage remains true – that relationships and reputations are a lot easier to lose, than to obtain. This reiterates the point made by Gary Hamel in his classic Alliance Advantage that many senior executives still see the signing of the contract, the bagging of the deal and the handshake as the end of the ‘partnership’ work as the end of the task. It is the macho, slam dunking delivery of the contract that suits the swashbuckling VP. But as most partnership management practitioners know the agreement is the start of the relationship and to retain and build it will take time, effort, a willingness to engage. Every business relationship has its speed bumps, its cracks, its ‘moments of truth’ – it is how the parties respond at these times that defines it. As Kelly points out if you’re going to cross new territories and build new things you are better off doing so in conjunction with a good smart ally rather than going it alone and for that reason you have to learn to work with your partner. Captain Kirk may have boldly gone where no man had gone before, but even he needed some friendly Vulcans along to help him get there. For the original article by Kevin Kelly see Send the network

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