Forget ‘Business as War’: Collaboration is the future

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Tamara Gillan is founder and chief of Cherry London.

Collaboration runs through the fabric of my business, and I believe it’s an essential ingredient for creating successful businesses in a fast evolving digital age.

We have all grown up with the idea of Business as War, where companies are battlefields seeking to dominate and destabilise rivals, both externally and even internally. But with the emergence of new social technologies and customer expectations a different story is emerging.

It’s a story based on collaboration or more specifically the Economics of Sharing, which is the belief that commercial realisation and success comes from working together and using a behaviour we learnt in our infancy: sharing. Collaboration is defined as the ‘action of working with someone to produce something’, much like parenthood but a little less terrifying. It is a narrative of co-operation and co-creation. My 19-month-old boy, hasn’t grasped the value of sharing yet and clings to his toys, with a face set for a fight, but he will learn its importance, as I did.

It is simple but sharing and collaboration are some of the most powerful tools a leader has. Whether it’s a brainstorm, a great conversation by the water cooler that sparks a new idea, a partnership with another company, or a chance meeting that leads to somewhere different. Whatever form it takes, it’s clear collaboration is key in modern business. Don’t just take it from me. Recent reports from Accenture show a 4.5 per cent average revenue increase of collaborative companies versus non-collaborative companies. So there we go. Sharing is not only good for business, it’s profitable.

With Cherry, we have built a business that leverages the power of collaboration to strengthen our clients’ businesses by using collaborative thinking to crack tough problems and offer new inspiration and partnerships with other brands to create new possibilities. In a tough and ever-changing world, collaboration provides you with people and businesses who will stand together with you, boosting your belief, impact and endurance.

Here are my top five tips on how to master collaboration:

Don’t be a know it all

When collaborating on whatever level, the best collaborators aren’t the people that know everything but those who can identify what they know, but more importantly what they don’t, and openly invite others to share their knowledge and ideas. A huge part of a Founder’s role is to take everyone on the journey with them, whether that’s in stages or altogether through the good, bad and ugly times.

Chemistry and culture matter

Create the right culture to champion collaborative behaviour, rewarding teamwork not just star players. Chemistry as with all relationships matters, so carefully select a team with the right know-how and different personality types that complement and gently clash, carefully facilitated to spark great ideas.

Don’t play hide and seek

Involve others from the beginning and don’t hide your ideas away for a big reveal. Instead work with key parties in co-creating or building upon an idea to create ownership, strengthen your thinking and improve the chances of making them happen with full support.

Manage the hell out of it

Collaboration isn’t easy and requires leadership. It needs a ruthlessly well organised process, to have the right expertise in the team and the inspiration to trigger collective and new thinking, a way to spot the really good ideas and make them even bigger, and a sell-in process to capture the imagination of other stakeholders and ensure their ongoing support.

The best collaborations don’t stop

And as with any good relationship, why end a great collaboration after the first dance if things are going swimmingly. Learn, build on what’s worked and take things to the next level in terms of innovative thinking, boldness and longevity.

Tamara Gillan is founder and chief executive officer of Cherry London. This column is an extract of Tamara’s contribution to the recent published book Every Entrepreneurs Guide: Running Your Own Business.

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