I was recently asked to contribute some ideas to an article published in The Partner Channel magazine on the topic, “Keys to Successful Partnerships”. I was really happy to take some time to marshal my thoughts and to contribute to the effort, because I believe that partnerships are an increasingly important tool for achieving successful outcomes. Partnerships enable us to be comfortable with diversity, and diversity develops knowledge.
The world is getting both larger and smaller. With widespread access to specialty content, our world is getting larger. Information is at our fingertips, which means we can become expert on any topic we choose and our horizons are constantly being broadened. At the same time, the world is getting smaller because we can have instant communication with someone half-a-world away. Partnerships help me to take advantage of both of these trends with full confidence in my sources and in my content.
I believe trust is at the core of an effective partnership. Trust that behaviors will be correct, trust that knowledge and content is accurate, and trust that the desired outcomes will be achieved in a manner that supports everyone’s best interest. This means that one of the most important methods an organization has for demonstrating and establishing trust is how they use and share knowledge.
Our global economy is increasingly impacted by innovation, and the mode of knowledge accumulation and sharing that an organization adopts has a significant impact on their ability to be an active participant. In his book, “The Difference”, Professor Scott E. Page shows how groups made up of a wide range of perspectives can outperform groups of like-minded experts. The purpose of this research is to demonstrate that diversity, particularly as it applies to ways of thinking, views of the world, and experiences provides a greater volume of overall knowledge for problem-solving than a tightly-knit group of completely like-minded individuals. It turns out our human creativity is best exercised and utilized in environments where there is significant diversity. This is why diversity develops knowledge and why our partnerships with diverse groups are invaluable.
But in order to create that diverse group for the purposes of knowledge-sharing, there must be the development of trust. Whether the diversity is based on culture, gender, age or organizational hierarchy, individuals in a diverse group have to believe that they will be treated with respect and that the effort will be made to understand rather than judge. When respect and understanding are nurtured and can be relied upon, then trust and full participation will follow.
When we engage as a partner in a project for manufacturing or Quality change, whether that engagement is directly with the end-user or through a third-party consultant, we have a formal method of introduction and analysis that we use. It is based on a document we call a Needs Analysis and it has evolved over many years into a series of questions that are designed to give us the answers we need so we can understand a new organization or client. We accompany that questionnaire with a document that explains the purpose of the questions. The explanation is important, because we are asking the interviewee to spend considerable time answering the questionnaire; we want the interviewee to trust that we respect their time and that our goal is to achieve a thorough understanding of their current environment and goals.
Every organization, even those in the same vertical industry like chemicals, coatings, or food processing, has its own culture and most likely has a method or process that provides them with a strategic competitive benefit. To be an effective partner for them, we must make the effort to understand what makes then different or unique and incorporate that knowledge into our product fit and implementation plans. On the other hand, because we have hundreds of these interviews and documents in our archives, we bring knowledge of other practices that might be beneficial or that we have clearly seen are not useful.
We have a diversity of knowledge that has been gleaned from working with a large number of organizations across multiple industries. Our clients have a diversity of knowledge that is based on their unique organizations and evolution. Together in a strong partnership, we can share this accumulated knowledge and we can achieve great things.
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