Partnerships in their various guises have become a much talked-about topic of discussion in this post-COVID world. We have seen a distinct acceleration in the number of strategic partnerships being struck , involving not only for-profit firms, but Public-Private Partnerships, Social partners and new economic players in the ecosystem.
At the heart of every partnership is a series of decisions which, despite the best intelligence gathered or our prior experiences, require trust. They involve a leap of faith into uncharted territory and most importantly, they require faith in ourselves. We often ask ourselves, would we be as good a partner as the ones we seek?
This was made evident to me in the most visible of ways this week, as we were exploring new strategic partnerships together with a client. The energy, the sense of possibility that was brought into the room was palpable. It reminded me of three aspects I have come to know about partnerships and how they are designed. Ignoring these, I have learned, left much value on the table…unclaimed…
- Our perspective on partnering has a remarkable effect on our ability to design (and implement) a strategic partnership, well beyond what we can see at the time or are willing to admit. Very often, the key aspects of partnerships, from the selection of potential partners to what would constitute a fair value exchange, are regulated by what we let ourselves see, the permission we give ourselves to explore and our humility to admit there is much to be learned. I realised, over a good number of partnering opportunities, that before making partnering decisions, we should look inward first, surround ourselves not only with the technical skills needed, but with those who think differently to us, who design and structure differently. You may feel anxious in their presence, but their contribution is often immeasurable to the success of a partnership.
- Visualize everything – the introduction of the Business Model Canvas has popularised the use of visual business models and helped make our thinking of how one constructs one, accessible to many. Partnerships take the business model to another level, as there are not only two entitles (if not more), each with their business model to consider, but the partnership itself. Visualising partnerships, from early concepts to elaborate architectural business model designs, is where one can bring clarity and much-needed rigor into partnership decisions. And today, more than ever, visualising these is made accessible to many. Use this opportunity to sketch, draw, invite others to ‘see’ what is now clear to you. They may differ, but the interaction itself is often where value originates from and adds tremendously to a smart partnership – by design.
- Experiment early and often – there is a view that prevails in many organisations, that partnerships can only be struck once a long, pain-staking, and meticulous development process has taken place. While there is much to be said for rigor, such work does not reside in a vacuum. Often, I find that potential partners may not know more than you and your team do, about aspects of the partnership (whether informal collaboration or a full-blown JV). At times, the only way to find out is to experiment, and we have a wealth of tools today to do exactly that – from rapid prototyping approaches to business process management tools which provide real-time feedback on aspects of the partnership you are trying to validate. Use these, ask probing questions, and empower you team to learn. You may very well make mistakes (we all do…), but these would be immeasurably small, compared to finding these aspects once the legal process has taken its course.
We are stepping into a world where the capabilities we need to thrive in the future, may be found well beyond our organisation’s borders, and our ability to identify, fetch and partner for these will be a key differentiator in the decade ahead, perhaps longer.
With these capabilities, we are also better prepared to partner for growth.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Saar Ben-Attar (Chief Instigator)