I consider two key types of communications that are part of your collaboration partnership network; formal communications that are directed and planned, and informal communications that are ad hoc and more like social communications. Each of these types of communications are important to the success and growth in both span and maturity of your network.  In addition, each of these types of communications supports the other in filling out the relationships and providing depth and strength to the relationships.  I have said many times to many people that it is hard to dislike someone after you’ve eaten with them as a means of building the relationship.

It is common discussion that body language and speaking tone are important aspects of communications and without the face-to-face interaction the communications can easily become misunderstood.  You must work harder to be clear in your communications when the visual and tonal aspects are missing or not available.  The same can be said of the two communications types of formal and informal; you must have the informal communications to build the framework that will support the formal communications more effectively and efficiently. 

Your collaborative network will start with the formal communications of interacting with a partner to either provide or receive a service.  This interaction will grow and develop through providing mutual benefits.  With this growth there will be an expansion of the formal communications to support initiatives and improvements to the capabilities and the partnerships.  This growth in formal communications is necessary to ensure the successful delivery and maintenance of the initiatives.  It is also necessary when the number of participants grows in order to ensure the expectations and direction are clearly understood and executed in a planned manner. 

Personal relationships and resulting informal communications is a natural result coming from the formal communications and initiative interactions that should be encouraged in the collaborative network.  These informal communications and personal relationships become the glue that grows and strengthens the partnerships.  The sequence of the type of communications is not important, it is a type of chicken and the egg question, what is important is building and growing the relationships through informal communications.  The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter which comes first, formal or informal communications, it is important though that the two types of communications are developed and encouraged.

Humans are social animals that crave the community and social interaction of the community.  Your communications types and plans must take this base into account in order to be successful in communications and grow the collaborative partnership network.  These two types of communication are critical to the growth and stability.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?