Mark Keenan, Momentum Engineering Co-founder and Director
Carefully selecting the best ingredients and following the instructions is fine when you’re baking a cake, but when it comes to building a successful collaboration project, it takes more than getting smart people into the same room to talk to each other.
Momentum’s recent experience in collaborating has produced outstanding results as well as a new, cutting-edge product. Everyone involved has described the experience as an unprecedented success that was challenging, exciting, and rewarding.
But, how did this happen? What special ingredients did we use? What made this collaboration project work so well?
Trust is the single most critical ingredient of the recipe. It’s also the most obvious and probably least understood component.
Without trust, it’s not possible to collaborate successfully.
Trust requires individuals and businesses to have confidence that the intentions of others are good.
Often being trustworthy is seen as something you earn through repeated actions.
However, when time is of the essence this approach is for establishing a high functioning level of teamwork quickly is not ideal. Collaborating to get an innovative idea to market often requires working with people and parties with whom you have limited experience with, requiring you to consider trust differently.
Trust creates a feeling there is no need to be guarded or keep things hidden. To reach this state involves a willingness by everyone involved to have and show vulnerability and shared responsibility for protecting one another.
Collaboration is defined as ‘the action of working with someone to produce something.’ It requires people and organisations to work together, and successful teamwork requires frequent, open and honest communication.
Communication is not just about the technical and commercial aspects of the collaboration either.
People and businesses have different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances, all of which affect the way we think and act and how we work with each other. It’s essential also to get to know each other if you want to achieve extraordinary outcomes.
Collaborating on an innovative product or system often means working without a clear outcome in mind. The target of collaboration can be hazy at the start, and there are usually frequent changes throughout the development, from conceptual ideas to commercial solutions.
Individuals and businesses must be equally willing to accept that “learning on the run” is standard for collaboration to succeed and results to be timely. Importantly, there must be open, frank, and regular communication which tests the path being taken to determine if it’s the right one and to change direction if it is not.
Shared risks and shared success
Focusing on commercial and financial aspects early in a collaborative project works against the creation of trust and builds an ‘us and them’ culture which will ultimately slow, or stall progress. It’s better to acknowledge ambiguity, share vulnerability and risk and focus on working together.
Equally, how you communicate externally about the project is just as important. For the project to be successful, external communication must recognise all parties, create trust, and build a strong sense of shared ownership and mutual respect.
There is no easy recipe for a successful collaboration project, but with the right partners, coupled with an open and determined approach to create a result for everyone involved, it is possible to create something special and enjoy the experience along the way.
Photograph: Chris Clayton (Momentum Engineering) presents iSOL8® and isoPlan® at the Petroleum Club of WA Industry Dinner in April 2018; leading-edge isolation management products created through the collaborative efforts of Craig Power, Momentum Engineering, Mineral Blue and Sentient Computing.