How to Unleash the Power of Collaboration in Your Small Business

tap into the power of collaboration in your small business

How’s the Internet working for you? At least good enough to get you to this page, right?

The technical standards by which the Internet functions and a lot of the software we use to communicate online are collaborative efforts. In software development, this often goes under the label of “open source,” which has become a very popular way to swap technological ideas.

And this brings us around to what I’d like to examine today. You see, September 10 is Swap Ideas Day, and the concept of collaboration can be just as powerful in your small business as it can be in the development of an Internet browser, such as Firefox.

I think the origin of the proverb “Two heads are better than one” is lost to history, but its underlying truth isn’t lost to anyone who has experience in how the real world operates. Second opinions, a fresh set of eyes or a differing point of view can create whole new possibilities.

In the small business world, “brainstorming” sessions are nothing more than a concerted effort toward swapping ideas with the hopes that even better ideas will be borne, which they often are. There are other ways to swap ideas in small business and I encourage you to explore them.

I’m going to provide some examples of collaborations and give you a short list of suggestions (easy ones to pull off) in a moment, but first let me offer a word of advice. Sometimes we refuse to share our ideas because we don’t want anyone to “steal” them. More often than not this is counter productive.

First, if you have an idea, there’s a good chance someone else has it as well. It serves your best interests to be the one who releases it into the wild. Second, your inaction on the idea is a clue that you don’t really know how to develop it. Going public can connect you with the right people to make it happen.

Three corporate collaboration examples

Corning – if you’ve ever gone to a potluck, you know some of their products – collaborates with its customers to develop new products. By the way, it has some very high-tech customers. Corning worked with Verizon to deliver fiber-optic Internet to areas where the housing is extremely dense, for example.

Take away: Develop your customer relationships so you can share ideas with one another. Let them know you’re interested in meeting their needs.

The major automobile manufacturers like BMW, GM and others are working together with tech companies, such as Intel and Delphi, to make it easier to bring advanced technologies into cars. It’s interesting that much of what the companies are doing uses open source software – Ubuntu and Linux.

Take away: Associate with others in your region, industry or related industries to pave the way for all parties to work together more closely and cost effectively in the future.

Reebok teamed up with Cirque de Soleil to develop inspiring exercise circuits and accessories. Reebok discovered (surprise!) that we often tire of the same old exercise routines. Cirque de Soleil came up with choreography, music and backgrounds for the new routines for use with Reebok’s new accessories.

Take away: Is there a small business you can work with that can add some panache or style to your products or services that would make you stand out from the crowd? One of the reasons the original iPod made such an impact was because its headphones were white. That little stylistic touch gave the iPod a noticeable difference over all the other MP3 players on the market.

Ideas for right now

There are smaller ways your small business can collaborate. Here’s a short list of things you can probably pull off in the next month or two…if not tomorrow:

  • Co-sponsor a local event.
  • Do a joint webinar.
  • Brainstorm with your suppliers on ways to reduce costs.
  • Offer incentives for your team to present their ideas.
  • Find ways to partner with your local high school or college.
  • Meet with other local business leaders to develop a local marketing program.
  • Collaborate on social media posts or blogs with a company in a related business.

Remember, no man is an island (Hey, that’s not unlike the first proverb I tossed out!) and when you swap ideas with one another, there’s a good chance that you’ll eventually come up with an idea that is bigger than anything you could have developed on your own.

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