Cynthia McIntryre has just published a great piece in HBR explaining why and how SME’s & corporates need to collaborate. If they want to prosper – SME’s need to form smart relationships with powerful players – and get access to their resources and experience. And likewise, if corporates really want to innovate, its been proven that they need to add the energy, ideas and freshness of SME’s to their mix. Its partner – or perish. So, why do some people still – not get it?
Recently I’ve come across two distinct groups of executives. On one side, are those that instantly perceive the need for smart, open innovation, collaboration and partnerships – even before I start to discuss the subject. They’re ahead of me. They understand that organisations that adapt and secure key relationships build a ‘collaborative advantage’ – giving them an edge over competitors. And then, conversely, I’ve also met several people recently who simply ‘don’t get it’. They or their clients do not need to look at alliances, collaborations and joint-innovations. They appear puzzled by the whole idea of needing to strengthen high value relationships or discover new ones. Their business has strong leaders and things are done in-house. Ideas are owned. Planned. Delegated. Budgeted. Timed. Controlled. One told me – ‘I don’t think our clients need to be innovative and collaborate, after all, they’re doing quite well at the moment doing what they’ve always done’. And yes, this may well be true. But in 2012 this to me looks at best perhaps a tad short-sighted and at worst – it’s a volatile mix of arrogance and Levitt style marketing myopia.
Big or small, private or public sector – we’re all in the networked age. Markets, technology, capital, communications and ideas are fluid and move quickly. And clients, critical staff and key suppliers too. We’re as strong as our network. And when small nimble players can appear and disrupt even the most powerful of industries (music business, newspapers, Kodak, Yellow Pages anyone?) – it is dangerous to be playing alone, congratulating oneself on the quality of your product and processes over the past 12 months. In their recent 2012 Innovation Barometer General Electric pointed out a ‘partnership paradox’. The majority of executives and marketing CMO’s freely acknowledge that innovation is vital to their business survival and success – and 86% agree that partnerships & collaboration is the most important element in innovation. This point was also mirrored in a report by Ashridge Business School in 2011 which highlighted that 80% of top executives believed ‘building external parterships’ was one of the most critical skills for senior managers to have. Yet (and here’s the paradox..) – GE’s 2012 Barometer reported that only 21% are doing anything about building important new partnerships or allies. Just as some people just ‘don’t get it’ – a lot of organisations and brands say they want to be innovative and collaborative – but lack the skills, the leadership and the attitude to go ahead and do it. Its certainly safer in the short term to not build collaborative conversations. Its easier to do what you’ve always done. Its less hassle to have a transactional deal instead of a deeper relationship. Finding, pioneering, securing and maintaining high value mutually beneficial relationships is not easy. It involves scary topics and behaviour – such as sharing ideas, trusting the other party – and perhaps changing how you work. It’s about adapting to conditions, flexibility and empathy. Tough soft skill stuff. Great relationships, new conversations and fresh ideas are difficult – they need nurturing and mature peer-to-peer communication. But they are the foundations that make life and business worth the effort – and anything that’s worth having is never to going to be easy to get.
For the full piece by Cynthia McIntryre in HBR see – How a New Partnership Can Help Smaller Firms Win.
- The Partnership Paradox: On GE’s 2012 Innovation Monitor (andrewarmour.com)
- Collaboration Is Not The Same As Brainstorming – (andrewarmour.com)
- In Search of Empathy: Six Habits of Empathetic People – (andrewarmour.com)
- Innovation Is Everyone’s Job – HBR (bjconquest.com)
- In Search of Empathy (andrewarmour.com)
- On Optimism, Innovation – And Hope. (andrewarmour.com)