There is a rugged appeal, for many, in the idea of being a “lone wolf.” In business, however, collaboration is the far superior option. So even if you think that somber solitude is the driving force of your success, you should take a look around. Today’s business landscape is highly interconnected. So, your success correlates to how well your company collaborates – internally and with other companies.
The internet has skyrocketed communication efficiency, messages and documents that took days to be delivered, now take a blink of the eye. A fascination with this might even feel quaint to some: after all, email has been around for decades now. However, our communication is becoming faster, and data is growing larger.
We have transcended any need to be in the same room with each other. Offices in Tokyo, London, and New York can work together as if they were next door. So whether you limit your scope to a team environment, or expand it to multinational co-branding, collaboration is the way of the future.
We walk you through what this type of collaboration is all about, and how it helps drive the business success you seek. Buckle in, because this world moves fast, and you don’t want to lose out on what that missed collaborative effort could have done for your business.
Collaboration Definition for Business
It would be laughable to say that the rise in communications technology is the reason for collaboration. If we were to define collaboration, we could say: “A cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties (which may or may not have any previous relationship) work jointly towards a common goal.” Reading this definition, it becomes clear that the internet may support it, but it sure didn’t cause it.
Throughout history, collaboration has been a driving factor for human development. You could say it market in our DNA. Even in the Stone Age, we gathered into tribes to ensure the funneling of mutual efforts towards a common goal.
For the longest time, this common goal was defined rather simply: survival. Whether it is the gathering of food, the building of a shelter, or defending against external threats, there was a clear purpose for collaboration. In today’s world, personal survival does not rely on efficiency anymore and society has alleviated the need for tribal structures. As the exact nature of common goals has shifted, so has collaboration.
No longer do we go out to hunt and gather our daily meal. These needs, as well as psychological needs, are taken care of by a symbiotic relationship between a company and the people working within it. A company not only fights for survival in a competitive environment, but for growth and prosperity. As jobs are the primary source for an individual to thrive in today’s society, they have a vested interest in their companies success. As such, similarly to tribes in the past, we funnel mutual effort in the name of economic accomplishment. We are a social animal that achieves more as a group than we do alone.
Collaboration Within a Business
We divided the collaborate definition, in a business context, into two different types. One is collaboration within a business; the other is a collaboration between two or more companies. Both types share the same basic framework of working towards a common goal, yet face different kinds of challenges.
Teamwork vs collaboration
What is the difference between plain old teamwork and collaboration? Simply put, collaboration involves teamwork, but not all teamwork is collaboration. When working together, teamwork is impossible to avoid, but not the other way around. To clarify, we have to dive into more philosophical elements. Unlike teamwork, collaboration is about the “greater good.”
You can have teams in which individuals try to pursue personal goals. A good example is someone trying to outshine other team members to get a promotion. Even performance management systems that emphasize individual over team performance, in general, can jeopardize a cohesive unit. Collaboration, on the other hand, is about taking the ego out of the equation. Instead of ulterior motives, members share knowledge freely. They exchange information and skills without the promise of immediate rewards for themselves.
Collaboration creates community
You might hit the team lottery and get a group of people perfectly synced, even without a shared goal as a guiding light. But this will only work short- or medium-term. Any change in personal dynamics can ruin this efficiency. Collaboration, however, is about the long term. It is not a solution you can implement overnight, as it is as much about attitude as anything else. But once everyone internalized that they are pulling on the same rope, it creates sustainable efficiency for the long-term.
Collaboration Between Businesses
Collaboration can also be extended when two different business faces the prospect of working together. At first glance, this might appear less intuitive than internal collaboration. After all, when working for the same company, you are already part of the same team. But businesses are often in more direct competition. However, the same the principles of “greater good” and common goal apply.
The most basic form of collaboration between businesses is networking. Any successful business requires new contacts and personal alliances. Of course, not every connection is automatically a new collaboration. But every person or company you reach out to have something educational or inspiring to teach your business. Especially start-ups can gain a lot from this, in their quest to establish themselves.
Share and split investments
Another form of business collaboration is to share and split investments. A very small-scale example of this would be two farmers co-owning an expensive piece of farming equipment. Applied to larger businesses, it could take the shape of sharing development, marketing or research expenses. Most pertinent, however, in today’s interconnected world is the sharing of data. With the unwieldiness of big data, sharing data sets between companies has become imperative in creating meaningful results. Results shared between participating companies.
Lastly, there is the direct collaboration. This form usually takes place between businesses not in direct competition. They are best known as strategic partnerships and co-branding efforts. By spotting a gap in your market, you create an opportunity for a powerful union. Instead of spending countless hours and risking equity, a partnership based on shared goals can work wonders.
Successful Collaboration Examples
There have too many great collaborations to count. But to illustrate, and give a sense of how even the biggest companies in the world gain mutual value, here a few examples.
Sony and Marvel Studios
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. It did not always look like this will be the case. Back in the ’90s, Marvel sold off the film rights to their most popular characters. Among them was Spider-Man, which was purchased by Sony. While their first trilogy of films was a success, Sony was unable to repeat this a second time around.
In the meantime, Marvel and its shared universe started to dominate popular culture. Seeing an opportunity, the two studios began working together. Spider-Man became part of the Marvel universe, adding value to the franchise as a whole. Sony, on the other hand, would not have the burden of creative responsibility, while still gaining box-office revenue. A win-win.
GoPro, Red Bull, and Athletes
Both GoPro and Red Bull sell more than the products they are offering: They sell adventure and adrenaline. Encompassing this lifestyle are the athletes both companies support. Their partnership was a logical culmination of existing sponsoring efforts.
GoPro provides their cameras to extreme sports athletes to capture their stunts. Conversely Red Bull uses their resources and experience to sponsor significant events in the field. Now working together, these both brands were able to increase the scope of their activities. Athletes benefit from greater exposure, and GoPro and Red Bull continue to associate themselves with their lifestyle.
Apple and Nike
Early during the iPods lifecycle, Apple realized that the portability of their device is perfect for workouts. They turned to Nike as a partner, and together they created Nike+. Nike clothing can sync with Apple products for a unique and intuitive user experience. In this co-branding move, customers can track their activities through technology while being able to enjoy entertainment possibilities better. These possibilities added value to both companies’ products. And the popularity of fitness technology proved they were ahead of the curve.
Communication is Key
Collaboration is not something that comes naturally. As with any relationship, the trust required takes time to achieve. And the crux of any successful collaboration comes down to communication. These days, a connection can be defined two way. One is synchronous through meetings, instant messaging, and video chat. The other one is asynchronous through shared workspaces, the uploading and sharing of documents, and establishing an intranet environment.
No one tool will lead to achieving your goals. Instead, make sure to make use of everything that is available to you and your company and that every player involved understands the common goal. With this guiding idea, people have a purpose in communicating and sharing. And before you know it, you’ve stopped working together and started collaborating.