The art of collaboration
| May 21, 2012
Darwin said "In the long history of human-kind...those who have learned to collaborate...most effectively have prevailed". I’d tend to agree. Something magic happens when individuals, teams or organizations with different skills, diverse backgrounds and divergent areas of expertise, come together. You only have to look at some of the great historical partnerships – Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Lennon and McCartney, Ben&Jerry, Larry Page and Sergey Brin – to see that combining the efforts of powerful individuals reaps stronger results than they could have achieved solo.
Collaborating can also bring a new perspective to an engagement. For example, we‘ve worked successfully with sister WPP company, Sudler & Hennessey to develop our stakeholder dashboard, designed to help our pharmaceutical clients map their relationships with stakeholders to achieve effective communication. Combining our insights experience and data with their marketing communications expertise makes our offering more powerful than it would be if we worked alone.
I have also had great success collaborating with colleagues in local offices to customize projects that have already been rolled out in the US and Europe to make them locally appropriate. We wouldn’t have won a major project across six Gulf states recently without a recommendation from a head office client but we also wouldn’t have developed a longer term relationship without having great on the ground staff who understood the local challenges and worked collaboratively to get around them.
Being collaborative is all about gaining trust. Some of our best projects as a company are those where we have worked hard to gain the buy-in needed to challenge the status quo and make a considerable difference. Take, for example a recent project that our Australian office worked on for a major European pharma company. We started off with the aim of improving the company’s corporate reputation in Australia and by working together over a two year period, not only achieved this but won the support (of the CEO, who now uses our work as the benchmark for other regions.
When working client-side in sales, I was often faced with situations where the lack of internal collaboration caused challenges. For example, at one company, we had two brands that our key account teams were selling for the same indication. One was seen as being much stronger than the other although we had the clinical data to show that they could work together well. To get home the point that collaboration was the way forward, the training manager for the group and I dressed up as Laurel and Hardy at the annual sales conference and centred our whole presentation on the great results that collaboration could deliver. Happily, the message got through and the salespeople concentrated their efforts on working together (and luckily the video of our ‘performance’ never made it to YouTube!)
Some unexpected collaborations can reap results - for example, Rolling Stone recently voted Boyz II Men & Mariah Carey singing One Sweet Day http://bit.ly/yZivPJ as the best collaboration of all time. .”. Although I am not sure I would agree with the readers of Rolling Stone in their choice, I’d certainly vote that combining ideas and having a clearly defined, mutually agreed vision and purpose for bringing those ideas to life is most definitely a good thing.
As George Bernard Shaw commented “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas”.