Collaboration Is A Business, Not A Social Mission

Winning and collaborating are not mutually exclusive.

 
 

I recently was asked to comment on the following statement:

In today’s environment, when credit unions get together to collaborate, it isn’t for the good of the industry in all cases. Rather, it's what's good for their situation, their credit union. Even the largest CUSOs are focused on the bottom line versus member advantage or value. Everybody wants to be the dominant player rather than a collaborator.

My initial reaction was to say "stop whining."

Collaboration is a business, not a social mission. And, by the way, even the best committees for the sake of mission still have internal power struggles.

The best businesses — whether sole proprietors, limited partnerships, or cooperatives  have a sense of win-win architecture. If we would teach and talk more about the business designs of cooperatives, then we might be better operators and collaborators. How do we all improve our skills as cooperative entrepreneurs so we can get better at competing as collaborative alliances in a networked world? And if we did, would we know how to match up for wins?

However, after a few moments of reflection, I was annoyed by the lack of respect for and underestimation of the influence of self-interest.

Here are my rules for how to find the best collaborators and not just alliance partners:

  1. Start with a riddle that no one in the room has solved. This is something new to do.
  2. No attorneys. Attorneys are designed to assume conflicts and architect solutions based on winners and losers.
  3. No accountants. Accountants look for ROI for the individuals in the room, and if there is more than one accountant in the room, then we will need an attorney.
  4. Look for partners who believe they have excess capacity with zero marginal costs. They’ll contribute to solving the riddle, not want to be paid to solve the riddle. Assets flow to the problem instead of paying to engage participants.
  5. Look for partners who understand disruption on:
    • The value of disruptive price.
    • The value of creating access for the participants.
    • The value of creating shared execution. 
  6. Find people who love riddles and the achievement in solving them as the ROI.
  7. Donate the solution road map to the open marketplace.
  8. Create competition. Bring in the accountants and lawyers and start a company or an active alliance with expectations that others will also use the road map. 

Now take the test.

Collaborations that result in big wins are rare and require hard work. If you believe you cannot abide by these eight rules, then you are probably not a good candidate for win-win collaborations. Move on, and do it alone.

This post appeared originally on Randy Karnes' "Tell Me Why I'm Wrong" blog on May 11, 2017.