“Collaboration is essentially all about harnessing alternative enabling perspectives, expertise and experience to drive more effective business decisions. While not all options can be actionable, we can ensure that a wide breadth of conceptual due diligence has been appropriately conducted.”
(Carl Loof- Founder, Impeccable Collaboration)
The play on words here – Collaborative Measures – is actually a scientific term, but as a means of boosting business success, there is often real life evidence based on facts and results that collaborations – if carefully considered and well-planned – can be beneficial to those party to it. Anita Kouassigan, who advocate collabrations for social good shares a real-life case study with us on the subject.
Quite a number of articles have been written encouraging collaborations in business and in the workplace. It has been defined as “a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to a achieve business benefit. Collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose”.
From The Huffington Post’s articles on the subject, ranging from how collaboration can drive innovation; to how it can be the secret to business successes; to Vera John-Steiner’s more academic Creative Collaboration; to Heidi K Gardner’s Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos which comes with warnings about entering into disastrous collaborations; to the set of Harvard Business Review articles: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Collaboration, the call for collaboration couldn’t be more pertinent today. There is so much more competition, and so many emerging players in all sectors, and of course the scale at which we can communicate is much wider, due to the digital age we now live in. Rather than being 100% in competition for clients, there are occasions where companies and entrepreneurs ought to find ways to boost each other, even if it’s only for brand awareness purposes.
From a social impact point of view, I personally consider a collaboration as an occasion to help younger or newer entrepreneurs in particular, and even further those who are struggling to get funding or access to a key network.
Imagine you are a new player in the market, no one has heard of you before. Having the opportunity to collaborate with a partner who’s already a household name and more experienced in the field you are trying to break into could be your breakthrough.
Of course, I am not suggesting that these companies with powerful brands should take the risk of putting their name on just any project. Rather, it would be a good approach for them to be on the lookout for, and not dismiss some of the up-and-comers, and offer them support.
On the flip side, the young entrepreneur could be a breath of fresh air for the stronger brand, and this could be a mutually beneficial PR or CSR exercise. Bank, Business or NGO collaborations can involve financial support (sponsorship) or brand support – or both.
A great example of this in the social impact space would be one of GT Bank’s latest CSR initiatives- Social Impact Challenge – which aims to fund community projects nationwide. Around the time of the launch, Mr Segun Agbaje (MD/CEO) commented: “We are excited to organise an initiative that will showcase not just the ingenuity and creativity of Nigerians, but also their passion for making a positive social impact in their communities. This Social Impact Challenge reflects the premium we put on innovation and collaboration and demonstrates our commitment to giving back to society.”
I’d like to use a single detailed example today as a case study, and to showcase some results and feedback, in line with my point that collaborations are the way forward. It’s a personal example when my first “invitation to collaborate” first happened. Though it was in the context of a profitable business, the same formula, approach and principles could be applied in a CSR situation. So, the story is that another recruitment sector business took notice of my own brand.
Back in 2008, I attended a Harvard Business Conference, and unknown to me, I had been “spotted” by someone who would have been immediately seen as a competitor: Ade Odutola, founder of Wazobia Jobs (wazobiajobs.com). In fact, both mine and Ade’s disciplines were quite different – and complementary. And we took advantage of that by entering into a partnership later in 2008.
Ade said he liked Minerva’s over the table tablecloth logo display on my stand (I was an entry level sponsor at the HBS event) and that he could see I had a keen eye for detail. He also mentioned that he liked how I engaged with people and that I was a hands-on recruiter. My view of Ade, on the other hand was that he was more cutting edge, having set up one of the first job portals (or “job boards” as they are more often called today). He was a digital man, and I was still very much a face-to-face lady.
Ade could attract more jobseekers from his digital platform than I could manually (in the old school face-to-face manner).
Both Ade and I had different aims, both stronger together, and we both brought sponsors to the table. We shared our resources, and then we decided to give birth to the first Lagos Recruitment Expo 2008 (LRE 2008) The LRE 2008 was held on 17 December 2008 and attracted more than 500 pre-screened jobseekers from over 7,000 applicants who applied to attend on the event’s website. Only candidates that had qualifications or professional experience that aligned with the needs of the participating sponsoring companies were invited.
The event, with tagline: Connecting with Nigeria’s Employers of Choicewas the very first of its kind in Nigeria and it also provided a platform for companies to strengthen their recruitment brands. This event was also timed to suit holidaying foreign-based Nigerian professionals and Nigerians in Diaspora. It was specifically designed as a hybrid between the usual course of the recruitment business that is between an agency and a recruiting client/employer and an open day career fair.
For me, Nigerian employers and jobseekers deserved the best. I wanted to try something different, a more fast-tracked recruitment process, while maintaining Minerva’s normal screening standards. It was also a good opportunity to do some PR. But the principle aim was to put together a recruitment event that is comparable, if not better than recruitment events organised in the western world.
For Ade his goal was to provide an enduring platform where Nigeria’s employers of choice and qualified professionals could connect in a conducive environment. LRE 2008 was also an opportunity for our sponsors to enhance their recruitment brands. It was a platform for everyone to showcase “who they are, and what they are looking for”.
In the end, all these parties above were in collaboration with each other – adding value to each other! We were certainly very encouraged by the responses we received from employers and jobseekers, with 98 percent of respondents to the informal post-event survey reporting that ‘attending LRE 2008 was time well-spent”.
I recently met with Ade in London, and during our conversation I picked his brain for his own definition of collaboration, and luckily, we were on the same page. Here is what he said, and I hope you all find it as inspiring and encouraging as I do:
“’The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, a quote from Aristotle comes to mind when I think about collaboration.
The output of a collaborative effort is often much larger than if one were to add what the partners could do individually. It allows partners to work together to achieve what could be out-of-reach business goals if they were to go alone. It enables businesses to leverage combined capabilities and expertise which could result in doing things potentially faster and on a much larger scale than they are able to do on their own. It also stimulates business growth and innovation because you tend to challenge each other.”