Why Collaboration is Integral to the New Business Paradigm

What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to Collaboration? Why is it vital in today’s business world? Author and marketer Lynn Serafinn explains.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the 4 essential qualities of Collaboration. In Part 2, we looked at how we are conditioned to hold onto the “Deadly Sin” of Competition. In part 3, we’ll take a look at how the Grace of Collaboration is one of the defining attributes of the new business paradigm, and how it is our natural state of being.

To structure this exploration, I thought it would be interesting to borrow a model with which many of us are familiar from corporate jargon: the S.W.O.T. analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

The STRENGTHS of Our Current Position
We find ourselves in an era of tremendous change. As economies struggle around the world, a new economic era is unfolding. As a society, we are beginning to understand that many of our current problems have come about as a result of our misguided ideas about striving for unlimited, linear economic growth within a closed, cyclical ecological system. In other words, we have begun to realise our economic model cannot survive within the eco-sphere we call Mother Earth. We are beginning to understand the ramifications of our mindless exploitation of resources, and the senselessness of running global economies founded upon debt and false wealth. We are waking up to the realisation that, as I said in part 2, every action we take as business owners and marketers creates an impact upon the rest of the world. Our survival as a race depends upon us changing the paradigm–now.

While our failing economy might look like a weakness, our increasing awareness and vocalisation of the problem is actually our greatest strength. By becoming more conscious of the consequences of our past actions, our world view is changing. A new breed of independent business owner is rising–the social entrepreneur.

Social entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to serve society through their businesses. While profits are necessary to keep any business sustainable, monetary gain is not the social entrepreneur’s only measurement of success. It is this rising social consciousness–about our responsibility not only to our profit, but also to people, planet and principles–that is our greatest strength.

Because our greatest strength is our social awareness, the new business paradigm is by its very nature a collaborative one; such a business listens to and works with the people it serves. We’ll talk more about this dynamic of Collaboration in part 4.

The WEAKNESSES We Encounter
The independent entrepreneur can often feel it is impossible to “compete” in this world of mega multinational corporates. We start a business from the ground up and feel minuscule in comparison to others. We don’t have the big budget to do wide-scale advertising; and even if we try, we rarely get the return on investment we need to keep going.

But rather than seeing this as a “weakness” I prefer to call this a “challenge”. Our challenge is to be seen and heard amidst the din of noise without going broke. Clearly, this means we simply cannot market ourselves the same way big businesses do.

Interestingly, this “weakness” (of not being able to market like big businesses) combined with our strength (of becoming increasingly aware of our impact and social responsibility) pave the way to our opportunity–to create a new way of marketing. Rather than doing it “their way” and failing both financially and in terms of the impact we wish to create, we have a tremendous opportunity to create something new.

That “something new” is already opening its door to us. The dawn of social media has brought us new ways to do marketing. And, when we combine the “how” of social media with the “who” of people who share our vision, we create a new kind of co-creative marketing. Our focus shifts to people and quality rather than money and quantity. Rather than spending big bucks on advertising, we find people with whom we can gather around a common principle or vision. Our alliance gives us a bigger and more unified voice without necessarily spending more money. Thus, our inability to compete against big advertising campaigns is the very Mother of Invention of our new, collaborative marketing model.

Possible THREATS to Collaboration
There is a great irony in our current situation. On the one hand, while modern communication technologies such as social media offer us the greatest opportunity for Connection ever known to us, many independent business owners feel isolated and alone in their entrepreneurial journey. In my observation, this isolation comes from a number of factors:

  • Historically, we are only just emerging from a long era of the individual, where there has been tremendous pressure placed upon us to “succeed”. This pressure can cause us to hide our self-defined “failures” and prevent us from asking for help when we need it.
  • The past century has all but destroyed our sense of community and extended family; many of us lack the personal support systems we had in the past.
  • Many people are working from home, and can feel isolated. Business networks are not always adequate to help abate this feeling. Many who cannot overcome this feeling of isolation lose heart and return to employment rather than cultivate their business.

Isolation is a formidable threat to the new paradigm. If we are to overcome it, we need to talk about it and create systems that address it. The popularity of “jellies”, business hubs, MeetUps and mastermind groups are examples of collaborative responses to the need for the new entrepreneur to feel connected to others of like mind. Equally important is the creation of social media “tribes” that are not simply geographically based, but rallied around a common vision. Some organisations (such as the 7 Graces Project and Wiser.Org) serve as virtual hubs for people to come together and meet.

Only when we create these connective systems can we begin to crack the protective shell behind which so many of us hide, and begin to create collaborative marketing campaigns and business models.

How Collaboration is Our Natural State of Being
Recently, I’ve been reading Tony Juniper’s superb new book What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?, in which he describes the intricate eco-sphere we call Planet Earth. It is fascinating–and awe-inspiring–to think of the tapestry of life, and how every component within Creation works together.

Through these eyes, we can also see where we fit within this eco-sphere. Every action we perform has an impact upon the whole. It’s not some “airy fairy” New Age mumbo-jumbo–it’s science. Our actions cannot help but impact the whole, for ill or for good. Thus, Collaboration is the natural state of being in the world.

Our economy and our businesses are not separate from the whole. In The 7 Graces of Marketing I refer to our socio-economic system. Our society, our eco-nomy and our eco-logy are intertwined. They work together. If we exploit one (e.g., natural resources, people) in an attempt to benefit the other (e.g., personal finances, personal power), the integrity of the system breaks down. And if the system breaks down, we ultimately lose the very things we are trying to gain. For this simple reason, Collaboration is not only our natural state of being, but a vital ingredient in the new paradigm–IF we are to bring our system back into a state of balance and flow at an economic, environmental and humanitarian level.

Personal enquiries for today:

  1. STRENGTHS: Would I call myself a “social entrepreneur”? Why or why not? How important is this identity to me and my work?
  2. WEAKNESSES: Where have I tried to market myself the “old way”? How well did it work? How did I measure my success? What did I learn from this?
  3. OPPORTUNITIES: What new ways of collaborative marketing have I yet to try out? What kinds of people would I collaborate with? What can I offer them? What can they offer me? What can we create together? What could it bring us both/all? What could it bring our audience?
  4. THREATS: How connected have I felt to people and planet? How has isolation impacted me and my business? How does it threaten my work? What can I (and will I) do to overcome it?

In Part 4 of this series on Collaboration, we’ll look at the changing relationship between businesses and their audience, and how marketing is becoming a collaborative co-creation between them.

Find out more about the “7 Deadly Sins” and the “7 Graces” of marketing, and how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place in my books:

Thanks for reading. I do hope you’ll subscribe to the 7 Graces blog AND leave a comment below before you go.

~ Lynn Serafinn
12 March 2013

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Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of MarketingLYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the top 20 of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.

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