You don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go it alone in business!

In today’s world, the mantra seems increasingly to be ‘you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to go it alone’. This goes from strategic partnerships and collaborative ventures all the way through to harnessing the power of a broad ecosystem to improve decision making and accelerate action.

Drive into any petrol station forecourt and you will see partnerships between companies such as Engen and Woolworths, Pick & Pay and BP. Automobile companies in particular seem to have no shortage of interchangeable dance partners – think Mercedes Benz, Chrysler and Fiat, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault etc.

But, the promise doesn’t always match up to reality over time and different forms of research has identified the partnership / alliance success rate as only being somewhere between 20% and 30%. This despite 58% of CEO considering ‘collaborative growth as being the key vehicle to drive shareholder value, with partnerships and collaborative agreements taking precedence over mergers and acquisition’ (KPMG Global Strategy Group)

Clearly, not all of these initiatives are ‘silver bullets’, each has its own set of dynamics and many are unfortunately doomed to failure.

In recent times, a number of collaborative examples have been prominently highlighted. President Ramaphosa’s establishment of the 4th Industrial Revolution Partnership for SA brings together the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services, Telkom, and the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Fort Hare to serve as an advisory council to steer the development of the appropriate policy, regulatory and enablement framework.

South African fashion house Mantsho joins luminaries such as Moschino, Balmain and Versace to become the first African brand to collaborate with H&M to develop an in-store collection.

Nestlé recently launched a Research and Development (R&D) innovation challenge in South Africa to strengthen the broader innovation ecosystem through boosting entrepreneurship and establishing a platform for entrepreneurs and tertiary institutions to contribute to sustainable growth by bringing innovative concepts to the market. 

Even global institutions like the ILO are harnessing the power of partnerships to bring micro insurance to those, such as West African cocoa farmers, who would otherwise have no cover.  ILO’s Impact Insurance Facility partnered with Barry Callebaut, a producer of chocolate and cocoa products, and pan-African insurance company SUNU, provides affordable life insurance, cover and tools such as loans, training, a savings account, a mobile wallet and peer to peer coaching. 

Collaborative capital in the form of ecosystem engagement, collaborations and partnerships are used for many different reasons – to access resources that an organisation requires, to  gain and share knowledge, or to leverage a diversity of perspectives and insights to enable strategic foresight or simply better-informed decision making. Yet many organisations do not have the requisite focus, internal competencies and collective mindsets to sustain and optimise the power of these partnerships or ecosystem engagements.

Rarely is time spent mapping out the system or ecosystem and understanding how best to nurture all of the independent and interdependent variables such as differentiated and shared interests, common and divergent cultures and leadership aspirations.

All too often results are expected without an understanding of how the partnership or alliance needs to be nurtured and nourished over time.

Perhaps these are some of the most critical future leadership skills to be developed that no amount of Artificial Intelligence will ever replace?

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