Collaborating in a Sea of Unknowns
I’ve been recently contemplating on the idea of collaboration in the social business space. The problem is that traditional business culture does not advocate associations and sharing of knowledge. It’s every man for himself and one’s business IP is tightly guarded. If someone with ill intent gets hold of your data, they can undercut your prices, copy your designs, your value chain, or do even worse. In a dog-eat-dog world, collaboration is not easy. There are limited resources and everyone wants a piece of the pie. However, in social business, it is not solely about survival. The stakes are higher as we try to solve the world’s most pressing needs. But how do we transcend our legacy of business culture?
This comes down to the phenomena of a prisoners’ dilemma. Imagine there are two prisoners breaking out of prison to find their hidden treasure. If they help each other they split the treasure. If one backstabs the other, the victor gets out with everything. How do you trust someone in this atmosphere? Therefore, working together but being alert to aspects of backstabbing has become a prevalent cultural norm.
Businesses are built by humans, who are beautifully fallible, so these systems are not perfect as well. Like the prisons dilemma, if greed or ego comes into the market you need to be cautious. People and businesses are not all trustworthy. So we swim in a sea of unknowns. What do we do when alone at sea? Reach out, look for support, build trust! Similarly, businesses have this common dilemma. All of us can flourish if we can only work together by overcoming our fears and begin to trust.
So, here I am starting a social business and I’m surrounded by like-minded businesses – staring at uncertainty. Everyone agrees that if we cooperate, we will all have fewer resources, but if we collaborate by splitting the resources and manage them with trust, then we can change the world. Unfortunately, life does not work that way.
Look at the nature for answers! Patterns always seem to repeat in the cycle of life organically and evolve in an ocean of darkness: by reaching out, collaborating, forming new organic and inorganic structures. How do we replicate this in business? Humans form the base of business culture. So what do humans do? We have families, partners, friends and societies that brings us together.
So make quality friends and not run after the quantity! We need to create families in our businesses. This helps build trust, heal wounds and co-workers/ networks realize they are a family. Trust is the basis for everything: at home and the world and it’s hard earned. So make sure you treat your siblings well and listen to your parents.