We live in a fast paced world that seems to be accelerating every minute. Often, we are being connected by apps that help us to solve problems we didn’t even know we had! How many times have we been on the receiving end of “that look” from our children as we ask “Why would I need that?” as they change our smart phone to include some “must have” application. You grimace as you hope you can still find your contacts.

Just being connected with other people does not deliver results, either in life or business situations. On the other hand, not being connected with others is a sure recipe for hardship and struggle.

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is one such “connecting” activity. It is formally defined as “working together in pursuit of a common goal or outcome”. Less formally, it is about using your connections to find a better, faster and more efficient way to achieve your goals- and this is essential because speed is king in our highly competitive markets.

Collaboration is now being considered as a core fuel for any business. Internal collaboration occurs when staff in a business come together to resolve problems or create innovative solutions. External collaboration occurs when people come together outside the business for the sole purpose of gaining new insights, sharing wisdom and knowledge in order to help everyone in the group.

Big businesses tend to use internal collaboration, i.e. their teams across different departments, as a way of driving continued efficiency and improving outcomes. We often hear from small and medium-sized business leaders that their business are too small to benefit from internal collaboration and they themselves are too busy to consider external collaboration groups. After all, they are running a business- and their people need to deliver customer requirements. There is no time to collaborate, and the benefits are limited anyway!

This is where they drop the ball.

How does Collaboration lead to Business Growth?

Problems, surprises and challenges face us every day. In a fast paced environment, this means multiple issues and challenges. It is impossible for one person to know everything needed to handle multiple issues.

Collaborating with others contributes to improvement, innovation and better decisions. By its very nature it brings together different voices, specialist knowledge, and opinions to either solve existing problems or develop something completely new and innovative.

So collaboration is no longer just an activity to be undertaken occasionally during a meeting or networking event. Rather, it should be one of the strategies used to secure long-term business success.

Business leaders who implement this sooner rather than later will be the ones who improve their competitiveness and succeed in today’s global economy.

Cooperating or collaborating with other companies in your own industry may feel counterintuitive at first, but its benefits outweigh potential concerns every time.

Particularly for small and medium businesses who are often more agile and responsive than their bigger competitors. They are able to innovate faster, sometimes even to create solutions to problems that may not be prevalent issues at the moment.

The drive to stay away from competitors is what keeps business leaders away from collaborative experiences. Developing mutually beneficial partnerships helps directors to leverage creativity, different experiences and varied resources.

These partnerships often help to connect right and left brained thinkers meaning you have a better chance of finding the right solution even developing it in less time than it would have taken you to do yourself.

Collaboration requires robust relationships. They need to be strong enough for trust and respect to grow so that the parties involved can share their issues, their wisdom and insights to benefit everyone.

A comment expressed recently at a Frankland Technology Partners seminar, acknowledges that despite us having a wide range of digital resources available to collaborate virtually there is still an overwhelming desire to connect in person, to look into another person’s eyes and feel the connection between us as humans.

Digital on its own is not the only answer.

Five reasons why collaboration is critical for the growth of your business

  1. Scale and Leverage – more effective problem solving occurs when we combine resources, talent, experience, finance and infra structure. Sharing and leveraging resources means we can reach into new markets and re-energise our established customers.
  2. Hold onto the long term – as directors and business owners we know it is hard being the visionary for your business on your own. The long view sometimes looks very long and the questions extensive. Talking about your long term aspirations to others who understand enables you to re-energise and gain a different perspective.
  3. Clarity of Thinking and Self-awareness – nothing crystallises what we think more than when we’re forced to articulate it. Collaborating challenges us to articulate and distil what we think and how we might approach the topic; thus also requiring us to share ourselves including our competencies.This opportunity is often not really available within the business as your thoughts often get heard through the filter always being the boss.
  4. Creative Abrasion – this is a term coined by Jerry Hirsch and he means the process of wearing down as a result of friction. Friction is often viewed as negative even though in its purest form it is energy. It’s possible to convert the energy from working with people who are different to us into something positive. This involves leveraging the differences and working to identify what could be complimentary. Within the business, there are very few people who tell us that we could be wrong, or that our interpretations may be off-line or that there could be a better way.
  5. Learn, learn, and then learn some more! – Collaborating propels us to learn. We hear different views, see different perspectives and become exposed to diverse experiences. It also therefore provides us with a safety net for failure.

Every time we collaborate we optimise our capacity to extend beyond our comfort zone and in turn stretch the boundaries of our organisation.

So the benefits gained from external collaboration specifically for directors and business owners of medium sized businesses are significant enough that it should be an active part of the business plan for growth.

The question, as always, is where to find collaboration groups of likeminded business owners and leaders close with whom you can develop such a robust collaborative relationship.

Where do you find collaborative groups, and

what have your experiences been like?