The importance of collaboration
I am generally a pretty collaborative person and I think that’s driven from my publishing experience because publishing needs to be collaborative as there’s always an author who brings a text to the table and then there is a team who collaborates with that author to produce, market and distribute that publication. So it is a very collaborative space.These days, as an individual who has a start up and is a small publishing consultancy, I particularly feel I need to collaborate with the other organisations in order to deliver appropriate services; I can’t do everything on my own. So, for a small business, I need to collaborate with other people to access skills that I don’t have.
In the early days, I developed a relationship with a printer because print is on the decline and they were interested in learning more about digital publishing. I had a chat to the General Manager and we discussed collaboration and ended up working together in a way that was suitable for both parties. It’s all about the people and all about the relationship and I think you need to have a common understanding and desire for an appropriate outcome and we were able to do that. The other thing with collaboration is that you need to give yourself over to the experience – you can’t control everything, you can’t work with all the cards clutched close to your chest. What I look for is the benefit I’m going to get out of collaborating with somebody else. Equally, however, I also look at what benefit I can offer them in order for us to collaborate jointly to deliver that outcome.
Understanding, managing and measuring a collaboration
I think it’s really important to get an understanding, at the beginning of any collaboration, about what you’re trying to achieve and then work really hard to keep in contact with each other person(s) rather than focus on your part of the collaboration only. Then you have a great ability to not only deliver excellent work but also refl ect back on the project and agree on the lessons learned. To strictly measure collaboration is much harder but I would say that the best way to measure collaboration is whether you can involve yourself in a collaboration with the other party again. On the other side, in terms of the client, it is much the same measure; would they want to engage you again.
Promoting your collaborations
We have the most amazing tools available to us in terms of social media, video and other kinds of marketing channels where we can inform people about the collaboration. One of the most effective ways to do that is to tell a story about the collaboration. Story telling is really powerful because it connects with people and you can then promote and share it through so many mediums like Facebook, LinkedIn, your own site and even other people’s sites.
Getting the balance right
As a small business owner, you have to refl ect carefully on what it is that you do and review your processes and develop your thinking around that.I have just done something like that myself where I have shifted the focus of my business from doing what I was doing three years ago to now doing something a little bit different. It has defi nitely helped me better understand what I am good at.When you start up a small business, you are generally quite frantic and work much longer hours than what you are normally used to. However, after a while, once you settle in, you start to see patterns emerge. As such you may not always be actively seeking collaborations but you reach a kind of a medium where you can better understand what it is that you can do effectively by yourself or maybe where you might need one are two key collaborations in order to better serve clients.
Tools to power collaboration
At the moment, I work with a company called MasterDocs which is a Canberra-based company who have developed software which assists authors, editors and reviewers to work collaboratively on large publications. I’m working with authors and helping them to start in an appropriate way where they can collaborate at the beginning of the authoring and publishing process so that they can output appropriately. It’s a terrific tool for large collaborative teams, who may work at a distance or who may work on complex documents, to manage the information and manage the content so that it is output in the way they want it to; whether it’s for print or for the web.
Relationships need extra attention
When you meet with people, it’s critical to be authentic and genuine in the way that you listen to them. So, imposing my own ideas or my own impressions of a conversation or a job is inappropriate. It’s really important to listen to others and really understand what they want to achieve and then doing the best that you can to help them to achieve that. That’s why staying in touch with people through the whole collaborative process is so essential. That’s why I firmly believe in helping people through the processes. I’m not driven by money or power but rather how I can work well with others so that we can achieve an outcome which is beneficial to both parties and our clients.
Key learnings from collaborating
Australia is a very collaborative country. I come from South Africa where people are much more driven and more direct. So, I have learnt, along the way, to temper my own approaches and my own manner. I’ve also learnt the importance of listening to other people’s point of view and not to impose my own. That is, to not simply say, “Well, this is the way that we are going to do it” or “This is the way we must do it”. Instead, I take more of an approach along the lines of, “Let’s do something together. What do you think? How do you think this should be managed?” Listening to other people who have completely different points of view is something else that I’ve learnt. It’s really important to do that if you are collaborating. So, overall, the thing that I have learnt over time is to be more open to other people’s viewpoints.
Thank you Daniel Oyster of Content Grasshopper for the interview, transcript and images.
CollabIT is an engagement and business development initiative that links small and medium sized companies (SMEs) with multinational corporations and other stakeholders in the ICT sector.
The program is designed to assist companies to establish partnerships with other SME companies, to forge alliances with Multinational Corporations (MNCs), and to build reputation with government CIOs. This enables them to tap into substantial MNC business opportunities and in doing so, access new or locked markets.
CollabIT is a joint initiative of the ACT Government and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and is delivered under contract by the AIIA.
The CollabIT program is based on the principle that collaboration between SMEs and MNCs enhances the capability and accelerates the business growth of SMEs; and also positively contributes to the success of the MNC.
If you would like to learn more about the CollabIT program please contact Rob Miller, CollabIT ACT Program Manager 0408 142 393 collabIT@aiia.com.au
Register your company details at www.collabitact.com.au