The second step in developing a robust collaboration partnership that I want to cover is open communications and sharing challenges.  As I stated previously, this is the second of three factors that will support a robust and value generating partnership network.  Also, this is another aspect that will cause some challenges both internally and with your partners.  The open communication and sharing of challenges is generally at odds with normal organizational and company behavior for two reasons, no one wants competitors to know your limitations and know one shares what they broadly consider intellectual property.  The challenge is overcoming these hurdles is breaking the habits that have been ingrained in beliefs and performance for so long. 

The key to breaking the habits is demonstrating the habits provide no value and actually hinder improved performance.  I suggest the best method to breaking these habits is to evaluate facts related to the types of information shared or potentially shared.  I suggest that the majority of information considered proprietary is in reality perfectly appropriate to share with partners, I think that the definition of proprietary information is more habit based than fact based.  I’ve seen organizations that consider what seems like 99% of the information produced or discussed as proprietary and confidential. I find this amazing because when I saw the type of information protected I realized that it could be easily collected or deduced from public sources.  What I am saying here is that a simple fact based evaluation has a very high probability that you will determine the majority of information you currently define as proprietary or intellectual property are in reality easily collected or deduced from public records.

A second tool or practice to encourage sharing of information is the non-disclosure statement.  This tool has been utilized in the client / service provider relationship to protect both the service provider and the the client.  This tool will work just as well in a partner, or peer-to-peer relationship.  This non-disclosure statement provides the foundation to encouraging sharing and especially in a newly forming partner relationship.  This tool provides the comfort for all parties in the relationship to build an open communication network.  The requirement for this tool is to define the tool to allow for the partnership and not focus on any one partner in the network.  This could mean that you would need to include an addendum that defines all of the partners that participate in the partnership network.   

This foundation of comfort in sharing information across the partnership network will provide for a solid foundation to increase the trust and the benefits that can be achieved.  Remember though that you must start with changing the relationship from a client / service provider type to a peer-to-peer or equal partner relationship.  This is key to achieving the most from your collaborative partner network.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you discussed engagement and participation with your collaborative partners?  What methods have you identified and incorporated to encourage participation?  Have you incorporated a practice to encourage your partners to take a leadership role in initiatives?