Do You Have a Collaborative Mindset?

 In Collaboration, Creating Shared Value

A collaborative mindset is your ticket to play in the competitive and challenging business environment that exists today. So, how do you know if you already have it? Or how do you know what you and your people need to work on?

This article outlines the first of the 7 essential features of collaborative businesses that I recently published.

Why the fuss about mindset?

It’s only when collaborations and partnerships fall down that we often look back and realise that, in many cases, they were never really going to work.

For example, if innovation is stymied or not supported in your organisation, then you’re unlikely to be setting the world on fire when it comes to highly innovative and collaborative ways of working.

Having worked in this field for more than a decade, I’ve found that there are some core mindset requirements that you need before you attempt to get involved, otherwise you risk wasting the time and resources of everyone involved.

We’ll touch on five important ones.

1. Embrace interdependence

If you think your success is disconnected and independent of the surrounding socio-economic conditions, do so at your peril.

Collaborations work when you embrace interdependence, which is an acknowledgement that your success relies on having vibrant and healthy communities and economies in the areas you operate in. Win-lose relationships don’t stand the test of time.

Over the past decade or so, a handful of large companies – both respected and reviled – have focused on increasing their relevance to customers, communities and regulators to support financial success in the long run. Nestle describes it well:

We understand that the prospects of our business are linked to the health and resilience of the society and world in which we operate. Our priorities are those areas with the greatest connection between Nestlé’s business and society.

This acknowledgment alone doesn’t guarantee success nor popularity, however it’s a quantum leap ahead of companies that come from a mindset of preying on society rather than co-creating value with it.

2. Adopt an external focus

A collaborative business will excel at looking outwards and developing opportunities with new types of partners and working in new ways. Consider Unilever’s approach to open innovation – encouraging people to bring their ideas and supporting the development process.

JPMorgan Chase took out top spot in the 2017 Fortune Change the World list due to its efforts in helping to revitalize cities like Detroit that have suffered badly from a loss of manufacturing jobs. It’s diverted more than $250 million into community-building investments and has worked with an array of non-traditional partners in order to stimulate economic activity in down and out areas.

3. Be proactive

For an innovative company this is fairly obvious, but we should never assume. Initiatives like the JPMorgan Chase one described above rarely happen by staying indoors and waiting for the world to come to you.

How do you convince your people to look and work outside of their organisational boundaries? How do you encourage them to gather insights? How do they analyse and explore their new ideas?

You might need to build your capability and develop your work culture in this area.

4. Be humble

Knowing that you don’t know everything is one of the greatest assets you can possess.

Approaching conversations with humility will lure out insights and build relationships that will pay off down the track.

In a recent whole-of-community collaboration that I was working on, it became abundantly clear that local residents, businesses, NGOs and government were all aligned in terms of the youth employment and economic outcomes they were seeking – it’s just that they spoke about those outcomes in different ‘languages’ and used different indicators of success.

Representatives from all sectors had the humility to come together to listen and learn about each other’s perspectives. As a result, we have a blueprint for success that caters to everyone’s needs and it’s one that they all agree with.

A good dose of humility puts you well on your way to achieving collaborative success.

5. Measure to manage

When you collaborate with others, do you discuss measurement early on? And do you ask: what is the role of measurement in this process?

The primary goal of measurement should be to inform management about the allocation of internal resources. It’s tempting to overlook measurement in order to get things moving, or focus on cosmetic indicators. For example, have you ever seen a company use a glossy photo from a community program for the front cover of their annual report and then wonder, what value was really gained here?

The primary goal of measurement should be to inform management about the allocation of internal resources.

As Peter Drucker famously noted, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

As an aside, if you want the latest on measuring projects and partnerships that involve both business and societal outcomes, you can refer to the following public shared value measurement guide.

Do you have the right mindset?

I’m sure you’d agree the mindset elements here make sense and, in theory, should be present in every employee, manager and executive in your organisation. However it’s worth checking in and making sure it really is there (or not)!

When you look at the five elements above, how do you rate in terms of mindset? And what are your chances of becoming a highly collaborative business?

Phil Preston supports executives and leaders across all sectors in their collaborative challenges. You can make contact with him or visit his website.

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