The following is an excerpt from the book Collaboration Ground Rules by Dan Sullivan coming out in March 2022.
Since we founded Strategic Coach over 30 years ago, we’ve had many experiences of being collaborative with other organizations regardless of whether they’ve reciprocated.
In fact, we’ll happily promote something really good that someone else is doing even if we’re not expecting any kind of reward for doing so.
When you step forward and volunteer, you create opportunities and connections for the other person, making it possible for them to decide whether they want to collaborate with you. If you’re constantly approaching the world with a collaborative attitude, opportunities for real collaboration will naturally appear for you.
And even if the other person doesn’t reciprocate by creating new opportunities for you, it wasn’t a wasted effort, because spending time doing something for someone else’s project will give you new ideas that can be used either in future collaboration with the other person or in a new idea you work on by yourself or with a different collaborator.
Best test for collaborators.
If the other person agrees to collaborate with you, then it’s magic. But either way, their response lets you determine very quickly what their attitude is toward collaboration.
You start off in the same way you want to proceed—and the way you want the other person to proceed—but not everyone is collaborative-minded or operates in a collaborative fashion.
You take a generous approach to collaboration, and then you see whether that generosity is reciprocated. If it is, that means there can be a connection or a collaboration. And if it isn’t, you have information to know how to proceed. So, you suffer no harm no matter how it turns out.
Combining organizations’ capabilities.
Our focus here is not on collaborations between team members within the same organization, but between entrepreneurs in different organizations. Within companies, there is generally an inequality of ownership, experience, and capability among the team.
On the other hand, when collaborations take place between you and another entrepreneur outside of your organization, you’re putting two unique entities together, and the individuals involved are independent of each other.
There’s a greater multiplier possibility in outside collaboration than there is in internal teamwork, and this applies exclusively to collaborations between entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs can create freedom and abundance for themselves in a way that people in other types of organizations—including government, corporate, and non-profit—cannot.
No need for competition.
When we talk about collaboration, we’re talking about a means for entrepreneurs to multiply themselves in a way that completely bypasses the normal rules of competition in the marketplace.
This is a total shift in mindset from the one that most entrepreneurs possess, which is to be in competition 24/7. Being in competition means you’re doing more or less the same thing as other businesses, so more and more, you’re competing with those other businesses based on nothing but price. Since everyone is offering the same product or service, whoever has the lowest price has the upper hand.
In collaboration, however, you’re combining completely unique capabilities, and it’s not driven by competition but by growth. When two innovators put their capabilities together, the results are exponential. It suddenly creates a new type of multiplier in the marketplace that competition couldn’t create. It comes from a willingness to collaborate, and people who are competitive don’t have a willingness to collaborate.
The invisible advantage.
There are two reasons why you often don’t hear about collaborative innovations from the entrepreneurs who are engaged in them. One is that it’s so exciting and engaging that it uses up all of their energy. They’ve created something wonderful, and they don’t want to waste any part of this sudden new opportunity.
The second is that it’s largely invisible. People who are competition-driven simply can’t observe it. They don’t understand what’s happening. It doesn’t make sense to them that two individual entrepreneurs, each doing something different, would put their capabilities together.
But innovation always involves taking something from one place and something completely different from somewhere else, and putting them together to create a brand new third thing. The people doing this don’t want to talk about it because they’re too busy, and also because they don’t want to give up the advantage of being invisible to competitors.
Because of technological changes, especially those that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of travel, communications, and teamwork has been reduced exponentially, and it makes far more sense to use available technological advantages to collaborate with others than to compete with them.
In 2020, people with a collaborative mindset were handed technological superpowers to actually follow through on their collaborations. The rise of virtual conferencing has made it easier than ever to discuss new ideas with new people to create new value. And it’s more than just a way to communicate; it’s a new, better form of transportation. It’s a way to travel anywhere in the world without spending the time or money.
But people in the competitive world don’t see that advantage. They don’t know what people are doing on these platforms, and that makes them nervous. Also, they don’t know why they’d want to talk to someone 12,000 miles away when they can meet and socialize in person with someone local.
Those who recognize the advantage that technology provides can reach out to people they might never have had the opportunity of connecting with otherwise to create something exceptional.
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