Thanks to rapid, game-changing innovations, the future is changing so fast that it has never been more important to work together with all business partners and customers to co-create a positive and profitable future together. The key to successfully co-creating is a strong focus on collaboration.
As I travel around the world, I work with leaders in a wide variety of industries. I see auto manufacturers who say they are collaborating with parts manufacturers, distributors, and dealers. I see medical device manufacturers who say they are collaborating with distributors, hospitals, and insurance companies. And while almost all of them “say” they are collaborating, if you look at what they are really doing, they’re just cooperating. Pick any industry and you will find a similar story.
Cooperating is a much lower level activity than collaborating. Knowing the difference can make all the difference in the results you get with your business partners.
You cooperate because you have to; you collaborate because you want to. Cooperation is based on a scarcity mindset; it’s about protecting and defending your piece of the pie. Collaboration is based on an abundance mindset, working together to create a bigger pie for all.
Collaboration is as different from cooperation as the word transformation is from change. When you and I cooperate, we work separately and make accommodations for each other. When we collaborate, we are not simply making room for each other’s creations; we are co-creating the future together.
Collaboration is a function of genuine communication. The facilitated communication environment of the Internet becomes a productive cycle that amplifies itself: communication fuels collaboration, which fuels more communication, which fuels more collaboration.
The open nature of the Internet, based as it is on standard protocols, has played a crucial role in enabling this shift to an abundance-oriented economy, as it allows any computer or other Net-enabled device, regardless of operating system, to participate in the global conversation. Likewise, a key to the growth of abundance power, in any industry or sector, is going to be the speed with which we can agree on universally shared standards. Universally accepted standards accelerate the adoption of new communication technologies and pathways, which in turn speeds growth and facilitates further collaboration.
After 9/11, we saw the American intelligence community scramble frantically to create some kind of collaborative environment, where the CIA, FBI, NSA, and dozens of other intelligence agencies could begin to communicate with one another. Up until then, they had felt relatively safe and secure operating each in their own little information fiefdoms, where they could communicate with themselves but not with one another. Indeed, they saw themselves as being in hot competition with one another, and therefore it actually served (so they thought) their interests to be fairly opaque to one another. It was a classic scarcity-economy scenario.
As I mentioned earlier, a similar situation still exists within the health care community. There has been a lot of cooperation between competing players in the industry, but not true collaboration. It’s still protect and defend, fiefdoms and egos, legacy thinking—all the things that keep abundance from happening. The only way forward is to stop cooperating and start collaborating, bringing together all the major players—the insurance companies, hospitals, medical supply houses, and everyone else involved in every aspect of health care delivery—to work together to reinvent health care itself.
The same could be true for any industry. By working together to create a bigger pie for all, we can discover new opportunities and grow economies that benefit everyone.