Is collaboration the new competitive advantage? Possibly. I do know that those at work that pair up on things, and combine their capabilities can outshine those that go it alone. And, I do see how people with better networks tend to have an easier time making their ideas happen.
I wrote a book review of The Collaboration Economy: How To Meet Business, Social, and Environmental Needs and Gain Competitive Advantage, by Eric Lowitt. Eric is an HBR.org columnist and the best-selling author of The Future of Value.
What happens when the world competes for water, food, and energy?
Take a guess.
What happens when the world finds new ways to collaborate and innovate around limited resources?
Sustainability is the new advantage, and collaboration is a key competitive advantage.
Visionary CEOs are embracing sustainability, not because it’s politically correct, but because their businesses depend on it for revenue, innovation, and competitive differentiation.
In a global market, hyper-competition, and increasingly connected world, your portfolio of partnerships can make or break you. If you have the right collaborative partnerships, you have a competitive advantage. Similarly, if you lack collaborative partnerships where it counts, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
Companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, GE, and Nestle Waters North America are leading the way.
How’s that going?
That’s what The Collaboration Economy is all about.
Throughout the book, Lowitt shares stories and data, as well as actionable guidance on how you can help shape the future of the economy and of the sustainability of the world.
What I like is how Lowitt paints a big picture. He walks through the five primary natural resources used for power: coal, natural gas, nuclear, water, and renewable resources. He gives his take on the pros and cons of each, as well as some interesting stats.
It's not an easy read, but it is pragmatic at multiple levels, for leaders, and consumers, by showing how certain things can play out.
For example, as a leader of a business, you have to know when to compete and when to collaborate. As a consumer, you vote with your purchases. But there are also gate-keepers at various points in our system (such as those who gives you loans, etc.) that could very easily shift towards more eco-friendly ways and change consumer behavior.
Eco-friendly will vary.
I especially like that Lowitt addresses the topic from a business perspective, rather than just a “good intentions” or “greater good” perspective. He shows how “the great good” will make business sense for the long-haul. He is also clear that it’s not an easy road. There are very obvious choices and challenges along the way. But he also points out that this road can lead to very interesting innovations, new organizational designs, and will make or break some of the biggest companies that depends on global systems that sustain our daily life.
It’s both a thoughtful book and an actionable book. Lowitt provides a framework for action as well as guiding insights to help you challenge and change the status quo.
For a deep dive into the book and a sampling of the nuggets, check out my book review on The Collaboration Economy.
If changing the world is something you’ve always wanted to do, now might be a great time to do so.