It is important to not only have a great product or technology, but also build and work with an effective collaborative system
Lord Rama did not fight his battle against Ravana all alone. He had powerful allies like Hanuman and the Vanaras of Kishkindha, Jambavan, Nala and so on. Some allies formed the partnership for a mutual benefit like Sugreeva who sought Lord Rama’s help to overthrow his brother Vaali and regain his kingdom. The epic does help us understand the advantages of collaborating as partners, clear communication and having a clear goal – in this case, free Sita from Ravana. One key topic that I’d like to discuss here is building a collaborative system among all stakeholders. Simply put, a system that enables individuals and organisations to work together towards a common goal and in the process stay focused on their core strengths.
As a parent, today, I can see a lot of encouragement and importance given by my children’s school towards group activities. Children from the same class are divided into groups of 5 or 6 and are given assignments on a topic. It was interesting to observe my son and daughter interact with their group. Needless to say, such collaborative efforts lead to development of skills such as communication, interpersonal relationships and leadership.
The world of music is a wonderful space to observe and pick up ideas to build an effective system for collaboration. Our own A R Rahman, is known to be popular for partnering with different individuals like the drummers, flautists or the bassists for his various albums. Anil Srinivasan, a popular Chennai-based classical pianist has collaborated with a lot of musical stalwarts around the globe; his best according to him is with Sikkil Gurucharan. When we spoke to him for a story, he told us about five key lessons that he learnt while collaborating. They are: first take time to bond as individuals; next, listen to what the other person has to say; develop patience as collaborations take time to evolve, be clear and uncompromising on how you want the output to be and, finally, proportion – you have to understand how much of yourself you have to hold back.
Today, almost all organisations understand the benefits of collaboration. In an interview, Krishna Tanuku, executive director of the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, says, “Entrepreneurship is certainly not a solo activity. Even if it is a solo activity today, it becomes a collaborative activity tomorrow.” Take the case of Apple. While the company owns the core product it has various suppliers and application developers who help to complete the product and its ecosystem. One such application developer is a company we covered in one of our earlier editions – Bengaluru-based Sourcebits Technologies. A radiologist turned entrepreneur, Rohit Singal, realised that he was extremely passionate about the technology world, especially the ecosystem around Apple and its products. In April 2006, he started Sourcebits, a company that develops mobile applications, on the Mac platform. He now collaborates with a number of companies including Apple and various designers from around the world.
Apart from giving rise to such entrepreneurial opportunities, an enterprise with collaboration as a part of its culture creates socio-economic changes for the better. The bigger challenge as Tanuku sees it is to create such a collaborative enterprise that can scale up much faster than an individual one. He even suggests that the topic “How can you build a collaborative system that can scale 10 times faster than any individual organisation can?” must be added to an MBA curriculum.
To make partnerships work, it is important to ensure that organisations have good metrics and governances in place. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, managing director of Biocon, a biopharmaceutical company, says (in one of our earlier cover stories) that it is important to have a clear set of expectations from each other with delineations of roles and responsibilities. The risk sharing factors between partners should also be clearly documented. Partnership is an integral part of Biocon’s business strategy.
Two minds are certainly better than one. I can see a lot of difference in my son’s work when he is in his group –more involvement, a need to be better prepared, patience and better interpersonal skills and, most importantly, innovative ideas are some traits he seems to be developing. Clearly, the results are there to see in our daily lives. Entrepreneurs and businesses are not blind to this either. New entrepreneurs are fast embracing this concept and understand that it is important not to just have a great product or technology, it is also important to build a collaborative system. And the Web 2.0 world has certainly made the coordination process among partners a lot easier.
Poornima Kavlekar is the Consulting Editor of The Smart CEO. She likes to write on varied topics ranging from investment and business to parenting and childcare.