Communication is the cornerstone of both trust and collaboration in a partnership.  Communication is probably the single most important foundational building block in developing and maintaining a robuts collaborative network.  The free and flowing communication should be the first and the last point that comes to your partner network members when thinking about the collaborative network.  In fact, in the case of the collaborative network truly do not think there can be a case of over-communication when interacting with your partners.  Communication in any network is important and this importance is increased dramatically in a collaborative network.

The plan for communication is very simple in a collaborative network, because everything should be communicated across all channels of the network over and over again.  The collaboration network can be challenging because there are general no rules for engagement, the partners can engage when they desire and as something that is important to them is addressed.  You can probably already see the challenge in this; how does a member know that something important to them is addressed if they are not continuously engaged?  This is where the communication across all channels becomes important, and where the engagement of partners must continuously be a priority to the network.  Collaborative networks will fall apart if the lines of communication are not actively and faithfully maintained. 

The challenge in the communication channels is that while the lines of communication must be actively maintained, you must accept and embrace the fact that there will always be one member or partner that is more focused or active in maintaining the communication.  The optimum process in this network framework is to encourage partners to take the lead on communication in areas that are of interest.  This requires that all network members engage and respond to communication to encourage others to take the lead.  Communication is a participation sport and if there is no two way communication across partners then it is not communication and communication will dry up if the partners are not responding the the communication. 

You must understand though that the communication will never evenly split across all members and I think the good news is that there will also always be members that are more engaged than others.  These key communicators should be encouraged to carry forward the activities that engage the members and encourage the participation.  I think that most members in the network will participation with a little encouragement from other members and this is one of the strengths of the collaborative network; there will always be members that are more extroverts and bring members together for an initiative.  I also think you will find that with this encouragement more and more members will participate and even grow into encouraging partners.  You must use the people that like to bring people together and develop the relationships and then you must have the patience to stick to the process and agenda to give all members an opportunity to participate and grow into an interactive member of the community.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?