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How to foster collaboration in a competition-driven economy?
Perhaps the question should be: how to find the proper balance between competition and collaboration?
From my experience collaboration works when there is a definitive need, willingness to share profit and synergy of knowledge and resources to solve an issue or a need. Culture fit and trust are also tangible keys. I would keep it simple and keep the lawyers focussed on simplicity and getting the work initiated.
Find a common need and focus on mutually beneficial outcomes. This doesn't mean both parties win 50:50 but both experience a net positive gain as compared to if they didn't work together.
Two examples from different industries.
Example 1 - Apple buying OLED screens from Samsung
Example 2 - Fuel cell companies Plug Power and Bloom Energy CEOs teaming together to encourage Congress to make a correction in an extension in energy credits to include wind and fuel cells.
Find situations where it is a WIN:WIN for all parties. If it is not then just get a contract for services etc. and keep it as a cost of running your business. But if it is strategic growth, then all parties must benefit and you must be determined to make sure that the partner does indeed win and not merely serves your needs.
I’ve managed open innovation projects for large corporations for over 8 years and the most important factor that influences their decision to collaborate is RISK, or more precisely their assessment of whether collaborating carries higher risk than not collaborating. For example, I worked with a group of large corporations that decided to codevelop a new technology that none of them could develop on their own. In this case, participating companies decided that collaborating was less risky because if they didn’t join the collaboration and the project succeeded, it could put them at a disadvantage versus their competitors with access to the new technology.