So why have I chosen Collaborative Enterprise as my research topic? Quite simply, the answer is that collaborative enterprise, or collaborative, networked organizations have emerged as the most approrpriate organizational form for today’s global environment and economy. Why is this so?

As we transition out of the industrial economy to a more relational, knowledge based economy the ball game is changing in the way we organise or need to organise for success in the modern environment. While, according to Limerick and Cunnington, the industrial era was stable enough to allow hierarchal organisations to develop without having to change to remain appropriate, this is no longer the case in the modern era.

The increasing complexity, rapid change, uncertainty, and instability of our global environment has diminished the relevance of the hierarchal form as it finds itself no longer appropriate or aligned to the environment. In contrast, the speed, responsiveness, flexibility, adaptability and capacity of collaborative forms provide them with a smoother organising texture, or constant alignment to the flux of our rapidly changing environment. So here we are, witnessing at the same time, a gradual flight from hierarchal forms as collaborative networks and enterprises emerge as the superior organisational form for today’s environment.

It is not surprising then to see the growth of a variety of definitions applied to collaborative forms, such as virtual networks, self managing teams, strategic alliances, cooperatives, partnerships and communities of practice. A common thread that draws these concepts together is a common organisational form that supports the collaborative processes that bring together and harness multiple, diverse sectors of the community to address a wider range of issues in a world with fewer resources, increasing complexity and demands.

Collaborative networks and organisational forms provide the advantage of being able to rapidly link with others to access the complementary external assets, resources, perspectives and knowledge needed by the organisation to get ahead of the status quo, providing them with the capacity to build strength and set them apart from others. This is particularly relevant in a competitive global marketplace that demands immediate access to innovative products and services at increasingly competitive prices.

Collaboration provides organisations with virtual scale, enabling them to stay small (and lean) but perform as well or better than large organisations. It allows organisations to focus upon their core signature strengths, and expand through networking and collaboration to bring in the complementary resources and strength to solve the particular problem or opportunity at hand. Being more nimble, flexible and responsive to environmental demands, places small collaborative organisations at a distinct advantage over traditionally larger, more rigid hierarchal forms as they have more potential to ‘surge’ upon opportunities and respond to challenges in a more timely and cost efficient manner.

Collaboration also provides the advantage of increasing organisational power, particularly through the development of power with rather than over others. Coalition and connection power are examples of this concept of power with’ that increases the organisation’s overall strength and power to perform and compete in the marketplace. Collaboration increases the organisation’s knowledge and learning capacity, particularly by providing organisational members with more opportunities to access and re-use knowledge, as well as contributing to the co-creation of knowledge that arises from diverse connections. For this reason, collaborative organisations are often referred to as communities of practice and learning organisations.

In our next post, I will identify the key characteristics or elements that indicate the health and strength of collaborative organisations. I look forward to your comments.

If you would like to have Peter Spence as a speaker, advisor/coach or trainer at your company, group or organisation please contact Peter via the website contact form or by email at pmspence@bigpond.com and learn to become a better negotiator.

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