Getting partnerships right

Partnerships in business can be extremely rewarding. But making them actually work can also be super, super tough.

While many seem to think that the brunt of the work is in finding and negotiating with the right partner, the truth of the matter is that the real, tedious work begins afterwards.

When focus is on getting the partnership to work.

Herein lies three epic struggles.

The least – although many would consider it the biggest – is to actually be able to realize the potential of the partnership. If you have done your homework and your due diligence properly, you will know that you can make this happen, because all the ingredients and components you need to get the job done is there.

Which brings me to the two other struggles that will determine whether the above mentioned potential succeeds or not:

Internal and external stakeholders.

To start off with the internal, one thing you have to realize before you even start thinking about partnering is what your own internal stakeholders mean by ‘partnerships’ and ‘partners’. Because that may not be a given in any way.

Some will say they think of win-win relationships, where you give something and get something else in return, and it’s a healthy back and forth that will draw on each partners core strengths and ability to contribute. Those are the good ones.

But some will also disclose that what they think of when they think of a ‘partner’ is ‘someone who contributes, so I can win’.

Those are the troublesome ones.

Why?

Because they won’t necessarily commit to contribute what is needed from your own end in order to make the partnership a success. Worst case for you they will leave you hanging out to dry in front of the partner – and solely put the blame for the ensuing failure on you

So making sure all internal stakeholders have the same positive understanding of what it means to partner and commits to seeing it through is absolutely key.

That leaves the struggles with your external stakeholders.

What you will often find here are the exact same issues as with your internal stakeholders – why would it be any different on the other side of the table?

Because in addition to the already known and typical issues, you will also have the challenge of making sure the alliance is healthy and well, so to say.

This can be no small task. Because it works as in most romantic relationships; while the romantic feelings are on an all time high and everything is rosy, when you’re dating, the rosiness fades and the daily grind sets in once you have committed and tied the not.

This is when it becomes about making the partnership operational and durable. It will be stress tested time and time again, and just as rows occur in a marriage – sometimes with greater frequency – there will be tons of times where things will get rocky, people will want to leave and just abandon everything.

Here it is your job to keep the perspective and get everybody aligned again. And again. And again.

For the greater good that brought you together in the first place.

There is no substitute for it. It is essentially what makes every sort of partnership – personal as well as professional – work.

Now, why bother thinking about all of this stuff?

Because it is super essential when you talk about the idea of partnering and basing your strategy on partnerships that you’re fully and realistically aware of what it entails.

If not you’re going to end up in the statistics of partnerships that fails, and your only consolation will be that it’s the typical outcome of what otherwise started as a grand initiative.

Instead of getting to that place you should ensure that you have what it takes to get partnerships right;

Make sure your internal stakeholders are aligned and signed on to the approach and what it demands – yes, DEMANDS – from them. Make them sign a piece of paper, if you have to. Just get it done.

On the external front be honest and transparent. Always and from the very start. To stay in the marriage analogy get the divorce papers in order before you sign up. Tell them all the ways things are going to end up bad and make sure they understand it. And then ask them to commit.

Only when you have these things in place, should you progress with pursuing all the true benefits and value that can be unlocked through a great, mutually committed and enduring partnership.

And they can be B.I.G.

But only then.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Grand ideas do matter

There seems to be a general misconception around the notion of ideas;

Since everybody can have them, what becomes important is whether you do something about them and – more importantly – how you do something about them.

Let me try to explain while I think this is inaccurate in a startup context:

Even if everybody can have an idea, and the important part is putting some work into making it happen, all ideas are not equal.

Ideas suffer from the same fatal flaw as the idea about agile work methods;

As long as you work in increments, it doesn’t matter what you work on, because you can always toss it quickly if it goes nowhere.

While that particular argument makes logic sense, in reality it becomes a license to not think too much about what you do and why, and I think that is a totally flawed approach.

The same goes for ideas; if the idea doesn’t matter, because you can always get a new one, you don’t make an effort into getting the original idea and the result risk becoming…meeh.

What you should do instead is work on the idea itself. Challenge your idea, make it sharper and ask some tough questions of it.

Make every effort you can to ensure that when you decide to put some real work into figuring out whether it’s desirable, feasible and viable, it is actually something really worth doing.

For this you have all the tools available for testing your assumptions and hypothesis. And instead of falling into the trap of thinking that those are the important tools and the original idea matter less, use it to spur your great idea on and tell yourself that no idea, you can come up with, is so grand and/or complex that there aren’t immediate ways to test it properly.

Be ambitious, for God’s sake, rather than lazy. That’s all I am saying.

And now go and look at those ideas of your again, challenge them and go as big as you can when you start testing them.

That’s how stars are born!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The WFH problem

The other day at work we were discussing a whole range of potential themes to dig more into, as the fall approaches, and we’re taking on exploring new, interesting ideas.

One of the themes, we of course quickly came to discuss is “Work From Home” (WFH) as a general trend. I don’t think I need to explain why:

WFH has become a necessity due to Covid-19, and we’re already seeing how different sectors are catching on. As an example real estate agents in Denmark has already started touting the availability of “the home office” as a cool feature of listed properties.

So a lot of things are being done, and people are looking for business opportunities in this New Normal. As they should.

However, I can’t escape the feeling that we have got this the wrong way – at least from a stand point of maintaining our ability to be innovative and creative about things (something fx the Danes have always prided themselves in).

What do I mean?

An awful lot of ‘success stories’ on WFH that I hear have to do with jobs, where you can tick boxes, i.e. task or to do-lists. People find it a breeze to be able to sit at home with little or no distractions and just get stuff done.

I get it.

But what we don’t hear so much about are the proactive, creative processes. Those that are necessary for innovation and creativity to happen and for those task lists to be generated in the first place.

Why?

Because they are infinitely harder to do remote. They crave for people coming together and finding new ways of doing things; of being in the moment, be open and just make a collective go at it.

“But there are a lot of people doing workshops remotely and being quite efficient about it”, you might argue.

Perhaps.

But still: Every article I see about how to fx do brainstorms remotely are ultimately guides into turning the creative process into a…manageable to do-list. And then we’re right back where we started.

I understand a lot of people will say and feel they have good experiences being efficient about creative processes and put real innovation on a formula. I just beg to differ.

I think it’s next to impossible for 99 out of 100 people to remotely ‘plan’ for creative breakthroughs that ultimately end up unlocking entirely new and valuable revenue streams.

I think it takes getting together, deploying all your human senses, be in the moment, let your mind wander, pick up on the little signals in the room etc.

Anyway, that’s just me and how I feel.

But what I am certain off is that we are looking at WFH through the wrong lens; that we’re (again) confusing short term results for long term sustainability.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Privacy is the new luxury

Forget all the bling bling of this world. The newest luxury item – and a valuable one – is going to be privacy. Just ask Jeff Bezos.

With face recognition being unleashed in the public space and all the continued discussion around tracking of people and our data, there is going to be huge potential in a new market that helps give consumers – well off consumers – control of their own privacy back.

When that happens it will likely be one of the most defining moments for truly separating people in the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ buckets in societies rampant on tracking.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Has digital really bombed?

Considering all the progress electricity, the combustion engine and other major breakthroughs generated inside 50 years of inception, digital still has very little impactful progress to show for it. At least that’s the argument, Greg Satell makes.

To some extend he is absolutely right. Even though some real breakthroughs have happened and made a lot of things easier – shopping, booking travel etc. – if you think about the money spent, the money wasted, real challenges uncovered and real challenges created by digital, you could argue that he has a point.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It is still possible to put real challenges – global challenges – at the centre of digital innovation and have those as our guiding posts. It is just a matter of our will. Human will. Not digital as such. Digital is just an enabler. And a potent one at that.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)