Collaboration drivers


One of the most highly-rated guest speakers at September’s inaugural Collaborate Cornwall Conference was Roland Harwood PhD – co-founder of 100%Open. The Partner to Succeed team caught up with Roland after the event to ask him five quick questions on the subject of business collaboration

Why are an increasing number of today’s businesses choosing to collaborate?

Collaboration makes sense because, at its best, it’s about getting stuff done faster, better and cheaper. This is in part due to the fact that the tools are now available to allow us to find information or partners much more easily than before and organising ourselves without necessarily setting up new permanent institutions and hierarchies.

What is primarily responsible for driving this shift in behaviour?

The web and globalisation combined mean that ideas, people and money are much more mobile today than they were a decade ago, and this agility is accelerated by social media tools and the need to do more with less during the global economic downturn.

In your experience, which types of businesses tend to collaborate most successfully and why?

Companies such as Procter and Gamble, who have an explicit target for external collaboration, and IBM whose strategy is around solving complex global problems that require many different perspectives. And within smaller organisations, where curious people have enough time to have conversations outside of their field of expertise.

How ‘open’ do you feel today’s businesses are towards collaborating and what factors influence this viewpoint?

Most are open to collaboration in principal but closed in practice. The 20th century business model was built upon the premise that transaction costs are smaller within organisations than outside, and with that came a powerful ‘Not invented here’ syndrome which still pervades almost all organisations. However, it is increasingly easier to collaborate externally and so we are subsequently seeing a rewiring of businesses and organisations to reflect this change with the likes of the Mozilla Foundation leading the charge.

What are the main barriers to collaborating with another business?

The biggest barriers are undoubtedly around skills and mindsets. Shifting culture always takes time (and successful counter-examples) to change. Another main barrier is around uncertainty surrounding successful collaborative processes and business models which are still evolving fast and this can form a barrier to adoption in the short term.

The Collaborate Cornwall Conference marked the start of the second phase of the Partner to Succeed programme funded by the Convergence programme, designed to facilitate and support sustainable business growth through effective collaboration. Held at Tremough Campus University College Falmouth, it attracted over 100 south west businesses.

The event featured a variety of inspirational and high-profile speakers, and provided the perfect platform for the much anticipated release of findings from the first collaboration research study for the County – now available to download.

Following on from Collaborate Cornwall, and forming part of Global Entrepreneurship Week in November, Partner to Succeed will be delivering a new workshop aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs and business leaders to explore new and different ways of working together successfully.

‘Creating a Collaborative Culture’, is taking place on Tuesday, November 23 at the Pool Innovation Centre. If you would like to reserve a place at this free ½ day workshop you canregister your details online or by calling the Partnerto Succeed team direct on 01872 613000.

This article appears in the November 2010 issue of Business Cornwall magazine