Paul Skinner is the author of Collaborative Advantage: How collaboration beats competition as a strategy for success and founder of Agency of the Future. His work has always been about helping people create a collaborative advantage. Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside founder, talks with Paul about using a collaborative advantage approach at every level.
What is collaborative advantage?
- Collaborative advantage is the business advantage from harnessing value creation potential outside and inside the business. It can be overshadowed by competitive advantage. Helps us to grow our businesses more quickly.
- Businesses need to be improving people’s lives, if not, why should they exist?
- See customers as primary value creators or non-profits help to create social change
Examples of companies/communities/organizations moving towards collaborative advantage?
- Rotterdam – Connect to other cities through the port. City water scheme is a reusable water bottle with a financial contribution to water systems in other parts of the world. Then you get access to refill bottle from city pipes. Pipes provide business sponsorship opportunities. Also, Rotterdam has a gym called Pay More/Train Less. However, If you work out more, you pay less.
What are the obstacles to embracing collaboration?
- Including collaborative advantage in strategies and having a collaborative framework.
- Idea of competitive advantage has become so dominant. Can hold us back. Too often a 0 sum game. Can extract value from both businesses or can be used to prioritize shareholder advantage. Most significant disruptions don’t come from competitors.
- The dominant story of competition and competitiveness causes us to miss advantages. Reinforces that only value is created inside.
- Customers create value and is a collective process. Orientate ourselves around our customers so we can co-create value.
Collaborative Advantage Framework – “Outside In” Framework – Audit provided within book.
- Find Common Purpose – See as an enabler of change instead of a deliverer of change. What do we do to enable people to do better? E.g., Amazon changed the competitive model and let customers choose between all the options.
- Make innovation more useful – Structure right opportunities for people to pursue that purpose. Put it at the heart of divisions or missions. e.g., Argentinian Shopping Center – Instead of an advertising campaign, they built a world-class bridge.
- Make engagement more effective by designing an environment conducive to the purpose you are enabling – Choices are influenced by the environment like the social, customer, and internal environment.
- Iterate and accelerate – Work with early adopters to better understand and respond to their needs as revealed in practice instead of what people say that they will do. E.g., Coke
- Build partnerships to help us scale over what we can do alone – Look outwards in the same direction. Clearly understand the end-user purpose. Align interests around purpose. Adapt over time to unlock collective value.
Does adopting a collaborative advantage framework have to be top-down driven?
- Collaborative advantage begins by defining our core purpose differently. There is a role for leadership to play. Better to mobilize towards this mission. Apply at all levels of an organization.
- Evaluation of sustainability programs at Eden Project, an Eco-Tourism development in Cornwall. The most exciting part of the presentation was by the cleaning staff. They bought into the sustainability mission. They knew the most sustainable ways to clean a toilet. Made adjustments to make cleaning processes to be more environmentally friendly.
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