How Companies Can Prepare
Collaborations are only useful when they raise the bar. That means we and our companies need to be committed to raising the bar, and to making it happen. Let's be more direct, less comfortable, and challenge each other.
In addition to the design of the initiative, our research underlines that collaboration success is highly contingent on the preparedness and commitment of participants. Even the most thoughtfully designed collaboration will founder when participating organizations are not prepared to collaborate. Participants are often surprised by the level of preparation, resource allocation, time, and commitment to the long game required to be successful in their collaborative efforts.
Our guidance to individual companies seeking to achieve impact through collaboration is organized around three basic principles: systematically evaluating, investing in, and committing to the collaborative initiatives that are critical to business success and social value creation. These preparatory steps also reinforce the key success factors for high-impact collaborations, ensuring that the company's contributions strengthen the initiatives they participate in.
Companies need to invest time and resources in appropriately evaluating whether and how collaboration yields impact and business results. From the outset, companies should confidently and positively confirm that collaboration is the best answer to addressing a problem or delivering a solution. Secondly, collaborations are not created equal: Some will be more effective or better suited to deliver on company objectives. Establishing the business case for engagement is essential for generating sustained commitment, as well as for securing required internal and external buy-in. Thirdly, companies should identify any possible red lines that will determine how it may engage (or not) with a collaboration.
Collaboration needs to be part of normal business, integrated into the way we run our projects. It is not just a task of the sustainability team, but of all teams.
Once the company has identified the collaborations it will participate in, the next step is to determine what level of support the company should and can provide to resource the effort. This involves securing internal leadership support, allocating resources, and staffing the right people to participate and represent the company.
It may be helpful to think of collaborative efforts as another form of R&D: a business function that requires some space, time, and resources in order to deliver value back to the company in the form of new ideas, approaches, products, and services. Staff who participate in the collaboration can then deliver on the company's responsibilities and confidently make decisions on behalf of the company.
The companies that get the most out of collaborative efforts make a deep commitment to ensuring their success. They integrate learnings from the partnership to align key internal functions such as public relations, government relations, procurement, and legal teams in support of the collaboration's objectives. They play active roles in the collaboration, joining governance bodies, taking accountability for their responsibilities, and providing timely feedback to ensure the initiative moves ahead. They champion the effort internally, taking the lead on implementation and piloting the collaboration's concepts, as well as externally, leveraging their relationships to encourage other companies and critical partners to engage. Finally, they are patient, and remain committed to the long haul.