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Collaboration: your path to Sustainable Competitive Advantage?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”Helen Keller

Web apps and the internet have changed the way we work and live. Today we live in a world where the creative quality of work improves as we move along the “Hierarchy of Communication” from Connect to Communicate to Collaborate to Co-create.

Where would you place your organization on the following 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication?

1) Connect: is all about connecting and being able to connect with others. Connecting with those that you know and those you don’t yet know. Today this has never been easier, simply click to connect, without leaving your office and often without leaving your application. A ‘presence’ indicator lets you know who is there on-line and in your virtual neighbourhood right now.

2) Communicate: Once you have connected you want to communicate. Speaking with the other person now includes speaking with many other people through online virtual meetings. Communicating now includes: chatting, speaking, texting, sharing documents and sharing screens to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas.

3) Collaborate: you communicate so that you can collaborate. There are lots of different collaboration tools, applications and platforms available today that enable us to collaborate effectively across multiple boundaries: organisational, geographical and time zones. Examples vary widely: Skype, TeamViewer, Lync, Office365, Google Apps and Webex to name a few. All allowing you to share, review and contribute to a common project and collaborate together with others.

4) Co-create: you collaborate so that you can create. The desired outcome of collaboration is to create new ways to solve old problems and invent new ways to capture future opportunities. We brainstorm using rich media to engage the collective brain of the virtual community. We build ideas based on human interaction. We invent, create, develop new or better ideas and ways to achieve specific goals and objectives. And we build virtual teams that can deliver continuous creativity which will ultimately lead to sustainable competitive advantage.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage: The ultimate goal of co-creating (and therefore collaborating, communicating and connecting) is to maximise the quality and quantity of your business goals. Sustainable competitive advantage is the sum total of your organisation’s current abilities and future capabilities. By enabling your people to connect, communicate, collaborate and co-create they will produce exceptional solutions to today’s problems and create wonderfully innovative ways to develop future opportunities.

Takeaway:

People, Processes or Platform? The challenge isn’t the technology it’s you and your people. The challenge is moving your people along the 4Cs Hierarchy of Communication. So they become more collaborative and adopt and use collaborative applications and tools in their everyday work. You need to set an example by demonstrating an ‘inclusive mindset’ and a bias towards working collaboratively. The cultural change required of your company will be far more difficult than the technological changes.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”General Eric Shineseki, Retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

Are you ready for the new reality?

View: Collaborating in the Cloud: Opportunity or Threat? by David Ednie, posted on slideshare.

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Recognising Markets in Transition: Move everything to the Cloud

It is always easier to see a market transition after it has happened than when you are in mid transition.

“We all have 20/20 vision in hindsight” – Anonymous

Think of the Candle Stick Maker. How many are still in business in your area today? Market transitions are usually not single occurrence events, but often a series of transitions along a larger continuum of change. Candles gave way to oil and then gas lamps, which were in turn replaced by electric light when Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light bulb in 1879. Conclusion: be highly attentive to change because disruptive change (technological innovation in this case) is a pre-condition for all market transitions.

Market Transition Mindset:

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky, former professional Canadian ice hockey player

Nothing stays the same forever. What you are doing today may be still working, but you know that it is getting harder and harder to achieve the same level of results. OK, it is still working but the real question is for how much longer? You have to move from denial thinking “destroy the forces of change” to status quo thinking “don’t change anything” to possibility thinking “what could we change” to transformational thinking “what would we like to see changed”. By the way, did I say that this was going to be easy? No? Good! Why? Because you (and your organisation) tend to stick to what you (they) are best at, not what is required. Transitions are inherently unnatural acts.

Seek Indicators of Change: The Tipping Point of Markets in Transition.

Today, we are right in the middle of a ginormous market transition – the Cloud. The IT industry is facing an enormous period of brutal change as everything moves to the cloud, allowing users to use their computing devices of choice (PC, tablet, smart phone, other) and those applications they prefer on the OS of their choice. BYOD has gone from being a luxury to being a necessity.

Who will be the Winners and Losers?

Market transitions favour the instigators, the innovators and the early movers i.e. the perpetrators of change. They favour those who upset the game, those who innovate and those who change the rules of the game. They penalize, punish and sanction the rest; the laggards, the slow movers and the ‘no movers’. Will you be a winner or a loser?

The most destabilising aspect of Markets in Transition is that there are no established rules to follow. No established market leaders to compete with. There are no role models to copy or learn from. Your ability to adapt, try, correct, learn and try again is the key to navigating a successful market transition. Be quick to recognize, respond to and take advantage of transitions in your market. Re-think, re-strategize, re-invent yourself and re-position your business to benefit from change. Conclusion: Change before you have to change.

Learn from your Taxi Driver:

Every time I take a taxi to the airport I ask the taxi driver the same question: “How long will it take to get to the Airport today?” You would be surprised by the answers I get. One day my confidence in mankind was restored when the Taxi Driver took out his smart phone, tapped the screen a few times and announced with great certainty that it would take 47 minutes. I was impressed, to say the least! When I enquired about what app he was using he asked: “do you have an iPhone?” Then he told me where to go online to download and install the app and was quick to point out that it was free.

When your Taxi Driver tells you how to get to the cloud, the cloud’s time has surely come.

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