I’ve said previously that you can achieve outrageous results and benefits when you harness and promote your collaborative networks.  I’ve also said that I believe the results achieved through cooperation and collaboration are much greater and more importantly sustainable than the results you would achieve through competition.  In order to achieve these results, however, you must incorporate and embrace a strategy that develops and supports a blended approach to utilization of the tools and practices.  This strategy must guide and encourage the organization and more importantly the network to spend an the appropriate the appropriate time for heads-down action and then also the appropriate time to look up to take in your surroundings.  A strategy that supports and provides for a blend of these activities will help you to achieve and maintain a value added and high performance network.

There is an old saying - All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  This was taken to a suspenseful extreme in the movie ‘The Shining’ however it has always been meant to convey the need to have a blended approach to life.  There is a similar requirement to achieving success in business and especially to building a successful collaborative network.  Businesses are built by people and collaborative networks are a means for these businesses to build connections to the community of businesses.  The collaborative network is a type of social network then for the business world that supports and encourages building professional business to business relationships.  This requires a strategy and and encouragement in order to maintain the value proposition. 

This is where the importance of taking in your surroundings comes into play.  First of all, it is obvious that you would never have developed a collaborative network if you had not at some point taken in your surroundings to identify and engage with your eventual partners.  So this is more of an acknowledgement and embracing as an accepted strategy the activities that started your collaborative network.  I think it is important to acknowledge and institutionalize these activities as an integral part of your business strategy. 

In many cases, the collaborative network starts as a type of skunk works where the relationship is developed without the initial encouragement of the senior leadership.  This incorporation of the methods and practices in your business strategy provides the framework to institutionalize these practices.  This incorporation in your business strategy broadcasts the acceptance of these methods and practices by the business leadership to all levels of the business.  This acceptance is critical to the continued growth and development of the network.  A key concept is the practice of taking in the surroundings to determine how these surroundings can be incorporated into your network to bring new value.

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?