COLLABORATE AND SHAKE SHIT UP

PAUL ARMSTRONG SAYS COLLAB- ORATION IS EASY AND NOT AT
ALL LIKE SWAPPING A SPOUSE, AND CRIES OUT FOR A MORE COLLABORATIVE APPROACH TO BUSINESS, TO STAVE OFF BECOMING OLD IRRELEVANT F#@KS.

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Your company doesn’t have all the best players, why aren’t you borrowing someone else’s?

Collaboration is historically not easy but often offers transformative outcomes - from the simplistic (Uber with Spotify, Uniqlo with graffiti artists) to the more unusual (Covergirl with Star Wars), and more sublime (Dominos and Ford), collaboration is morphing and becoming more of an actual game changer. Whether this is because people are tired of treading water, or are scared of drowning is up for debate.

ASK THE CAR INDUSTRY WHO ARE FORMING PREVIOUSLY UNTHOUGHT OF AND ALTOGETHER UNHOLY ALLIANCES TO AVOID GOING OUT
OF BUSINESS AND BEING PIZZA DELIVERY AUTOMATON MAKERS. CREATING THE NEXT WAVE OF MOBILITY BEFORE UBER GIVES THEM A FIRM SPANKING WITH THEIR OWN WINDSCREEN WIPERS MAKES SENSE.

No surprise then that, on its trip to become the most misapplied and overused term imaginable, disruption is now being smashed onto collaboration. The theory is sound enough; teams are evolutionarily safer, and others may have a different experience which expands your thinking and voilà you’ve got a change that thrills everyone from Canvey Island to Calcutta...ish. Disruptive Collaboration ignores the Silicon Valley ‘break things fast’ ethos and instead you enter a world of ‘competa-mates’ to forget ‘me- ism’ in favour of ‘we-ism’. Gross, but you get the idea. Disruptive collaboration is creating a shared vision with possibly strange bedfellows. Sounds uncomfortable? You bet. Fruitful? Ask the car industry who are forming previously unthought of and altogether unholy alliances to avoid going out of business and being pizza delivery automaton makers. Creating the next wave of mobility before Uber gives them a firm spanking with their own windscreen wipers makes sense. ‘Collaborate or die’ seems apter than ‘Change for the sake of change’.

The doing is the hard part, let the lawyers battle it out. Keep it simple - have some exploratory conversations and be human. You’ve likely got the same concerns, perhaps a merger is the outcome, perhaps nothing. The point is that you’re reaching, you’re thinking differently and you’re switching out of the mediocrity lane. Collaborating isn’t like swapping a spouse, you don’t have to give away the keys to the kingdom to have a mutually beneficial chat that doesn’t harm anyone. You never know, what you think is your competitive advantage, might not be. Together you’re likely stronger than you are apart but also, don’t forget about optics and what doing nothing may be costing. Is not collaborating making you look like doddery old fucks, content on pissing into the wind? Maybe. Is not making bold chances inadvertently increasing your recruitment costs? How’s staff morale? Are they invigorated to be with you for 8 hours or would a fair few throw a match behind them and flip the bird as they exited?

Collaboration is a topic close to my heart, I have always tried to collaborate where and whenever possible. The inaugural TBD Conference (www.thetbdconference.com), only came together thanks to +30 good people (including FSC) collaborating. The effect of the collaboration created something more significant than any could achieve alone. From backstage help to on- stage speakers, smart cookies gave their time and knowledge to bring something different to life. How did it come about? I asked people to think about: who you should collaborate with, who isn’t allowed at the table and why not? Perhaps now’s the time to switch name tags and start thinking about what future you want. The phrase ‘It takes an army’ seems apt; just know it doesn’t have to be your army.

Life’s too short to go to another meeting where mediocrity is reached for. Ask for better players. Collaborate and shake shit up.

 
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PAUL ARMSTRONG

Paul founded and runs HERE/FORTH, an emerging technology advisory. He currently writes for Forbes, Reuters, Evening Standard, Cool Hunting and Courier, amongst others. His new book ‘Disruptive Technologies; Understand, Evaluate and Respond’ is out now.