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5 Lenses on Collaboration

Collaboration is promising if people and organizations are able to connect with each other in a meaningful process that does justice to the interests and focuses on a meaningful ambition. It's a major task to create the right conditions for this.

Working together is often a tough process!

Not all partnerships are successful. Sometimes you're asked as a player or as an involved outsider to play a role in a partnership. Then the above 'glasses' for cooperation issues helps to understand the complexity of the cooperation. You can reduce the number of different angles and that helps to reduce the confusion of speech. This confusion of speech often forms the basis of problems and can erode confidence.

A coherent way of looking helps to analyze the ambition, interests and context together and to determine what's going well in the cooperation and where the bottlenecks are.

A meaningful process

An important question that you always deal with in partnerships is: how do you handle it? There are various schools of thought and research that say something about it.

For example, you can consider the cooperation process as a political-administrative process in which different players with different interests must come to an agreement. Then you end up in process management. You can also consider it a job that needs to be done and then you enter the world of project and program management.

In any case, we know that people from different organizations with an interest in one another must engage in serious dialogue and then hate the principles of good dialogue. But because there are involved with different parties who need or want something with each other, processes of influence and connection always play a role

So developing a meaningful process involves issues such as: how can we do the right things at the right time? How do we properly discuss and reach an agreement? What role does everyone have in this and who has process control? How do we balance the attention to the content with the attention to the processes without pushing too much and losing the parties along the way?

How do we monitor the quality of the interaction with each other? How do we achieve a good result? In situations of cooperation with the above characteristics, speech confusion lurks constantly. This confusion of speech means that sometimes good solutions that are within reach disappear from the field of view. This confusion of speech can also erode much-needed confidence. Common glasses for looking at the collaboration can help collaborating parties reduce that confusion of speech.

Shared ambition

You don't just work together: it has to yield something. What it must yield can differ per collaboration and per party involved in the collaboration. A joint ambition binds the partners; an ambition that means something to the people involved and their organizations.

This ambition must be significant or an extension of the strategy of the organizations involved. Of course you'll also encounter limits. There are a number of no-go areas in the world of competition.

More together?

There are a number of important questions about the ambition of the collaboration. The most important is: Can we achieve more together than everyone for themselves? Other very relevant questions:

- What's meaningful for each partner, for the organization and personally?
- How do we avoid falling into the trap of speech confusion?
- How can every partner compete better?
- Which no-go areas are there and how do we walk around them?
- Is the objective of one party decisive or do we look for common ambition according to the logic of the network?

Strategy of the cooperation versus cooperation strategy

It's therefore about a good alignment between the strategy of each partner, the cooperation strategy and the strategy of the cooperation.

Respect for interests

Everyone has interests in a collaboration. It's about doing justice to each other's interests. If this doesn't happen, the parties will become frustrated, they'lldrop out or they'llstart to thwart. The trick is to arrive at solutions that are in everyone's interest with respect for each other's interests. In the world of 'mutual gains' (this thinking is central to interests.

A sustainable approach, a genuine interest in interests, transparency and reliability are indispensable for achieving trust.

Do justice to interests

Interests are the engine of cooperation. They steer behavior in collaborative relationships, determine whether organizations or people put energy and capacity into a collaboration. So: they help determine the possible success of a cooperative relationship. Collaboration is about doing justice to everyone's interests. If this doesn't happen, the parties will get in the way, they'lldrop out or they'llwork against each other.

The trick is to arrive at solutions that are in everyone's interest with respect for each other's interests. There's a thinking and research tradition in which this thinking is central to interests. That's the world of mutual gains and negotiating.

The golden triangle

An interest is something that involves everyone's advantage or even (life) happiness. A choice for an issue, solution, opportunity or form rarely comes out of the blue. The interests determine how parties look at the issue, how they define and perceive it. Only when you know what the other person is really about, you can think along with him and only when the interests become clear, you can look for win-win solutions together, the so-called golden triangle. This will help you understand why certain solutions are a no-go area.

Win win

In order to get from point of view to interest in a conversation, it's important that parties continue to ask the 'why question' together. But before parties start asking each other that question, they must first know what the intention of that question is. It must be clear that the intention is to find a win-win solution, otherwise the parties won't be open. The pursuit of profit for the own organization doesn't therefore have to be put on board. Building indispensable interest in each other, being transparent about your intentions and fighting for the reliability of your organization are essential factors in this.

Interests are the engine

Interests are the engine of cooperation. They steer behavior in collaborative relationships, determine whether organizations or people put energy and capacity into a collaboration. So: they help determine the possible success of a cooperative relationship.

Experience shows that in every situation more types of interests play an implicit and sometimes explicit role at the same time.

Social interests, organizational interests and personal interests are therefore always under discussion. Good cooperation is distinguished by the professional handling of those interests.

Organizational interests

These are often linked to the goals and core values ​​of the organization. What's the organization there for? What value (s) does she add? How do involved organizations earn their money? What makes them better?

Individual interests

Personal beliefs, motives and interests also play a role in every process. Only in theory can you disconnect people and the official. In practice, personal interests such as ideals, career, reputation, fear, loss of face and gain always play a role.

Collective interests

Collective means and space are almost always at stake. In a complete context it concerns the collective interests of citizens, residents, patients, prisoners, clients, etc. Even though these stakeholders are often not literally at the table, their collective interests always play a role. In this context it's good to distinguish between 'interests' and 'positions'.

Because it's difficult to properly understand the real interests - specially if the cooperation is in an early stage and the parties deliberately or out of uncertainty hold the cards to the chest - a shadowy play of words can result in confusion of speech.

Working together is human work

Cooperation involves both substantive arguments and personal relationships and relationships. Collaboration is always a combination of people who may or may not want something. Cooperation by its very nature increases the individual, but at the same time everyone in a collaboration takes themselves along.

Logical consequence: if more people work together on a problem, there's social psychological processes and group dynamics. Personal relationships and relationships always play an important role. Some examples of this:

- Inclusion and exclusion: who does and who doesn't?
- Power: who's in charge? How can you exert influence?
- Leadership: what's everyone's role in the process?
- Conflict: how do you deal with disagreements and with non-clicking personal relationships?
- Trust: what generates trust and how do we keep the reservoir of trust up to date?

When individuals come together, forces arise beyond individuals.

Bringing together intelligent, skilled and motivated people for a collaboration doesn't guarantee a constructive process. It can also work surprisingly, for example if the collaboration process seems to be stuck and takes a quick turn. Group dynamics, partly hidden from view, play a decisive role when people work together.

Group dynamics in top gear

Collaboration collaboration differs from collaboration in existing organizations; you've less time. In an existing organization there's always time to discuss irritations, errors, differences of opinion at a different time. You always meet again somewhere, either regularly in, for example, a management team, or informally in the luch, for example. That's different with partnerships. If the relationship isn't going well, you hardly have time to restore that relationship.

Collaboration requires binding leadership

In collaboration, hierarchical position-based leadership doesn't work. After all, each party is autonomous and there are no hierarchical relationships. Personal leadership is shown for everyone. This applies in particular to individuals who have a decisive influence on the design and maintenance of partnerships. Personal cooperation skills of leaders are of great importance in this. It matters whether a leader or director is involved as a process manager or as a participant.

Trust is central

Trust is a key concept in partnerships; very important. However, it's also complex and difficult to grasp. It's an important indicator of the success rate. It's not self-evident and even unlikely that there's (complete) trust at the start of a collaboration process. Trust must be able to grow over the course of the collaboration process. Inevitably, things happen that are surprising or potentially erode confidence. It's essential that you understand 'what the others are doing' and how things fit into their context. Being open to it, asking about it and telling about it's crucial to increase the reservoir of trust.

Choose position in a group

When setting a course for the organization, insight into networks, networking and behavior within networks are essential skills of the modern manager. A network is a group of two or more organizations that have a cooperative relationship, whereby cooperation can range from "knowing what's for sale" to actively carrying out joint activities. Choosing the right group strategically means for the director that he recognizes, recognizes and assesses groups from a strategic angle.

The answers to the following questions help you choose the right group strategically:

- do I see groups in my area?
- what's my ambition when working in a group?
- is there a need to operate in a group?
- am I willing to function in a group?
- do I join a group?
- are the consequences of group collaboration acceptable?

There are a number of considerations when choosing a group. It's not only about whether you want to be part of a group, but also about which position you want to occupy. Important considerations for choosing the right group are:

- the anatomy of a group
- identifying groups (environmental analysis)
- formulating one's own ambitions when it comes to working together in groups (self-analysis)
- matching the ambitions.

The anatomy of a group

The composition of groups can vary greatly, but a basic structure can be observed. This concerns three clusters: the strategic core, the complementary ring and the 'free space'. A good position isn't necessarily a position in the strategic core.

The strategic core

The members of the strategic core are the driving force behind the group. They set out the vision, determine the strategy, define the entry and exit rules, the rules of the game and the code of conduct and develop common knowledge. The strategic core can consist of one or more parties.

The complementary ring

The members of the complementary ring fill the 'strategic gaps' in the group. They know the range of products and services and have certain knowledge and skills. They follow the strategy of the 'strategic core' and adopt game rules and codes of conduct. The players in the complementary ring have access to knowledge and information of the group, but, unlike the participants of the strategic core, they don't have the full set of knowledge and information. Core members determine what information the members of the stake receive.

The 'free space'

There's a 'free space' around the groups. Organizations in the 'free space' fill 'operational gaps' of groups using capacity, infrastructure, services and components. These members aren't strategically bound and are involved in the group in a transactional manner.

Organize professionally: alliances and networks

The realization that organizations can sometimes work better together is ancient. The ancient Greeks formed alliances and went to war together.

Network structures

And what about the mafia, which developed in the eighteenth century when various criminal organizations started working together in network structures? Based on this approach, it's central that you must organize every partnership well and professionally. Examples, archetypes, considerations and solutions are available for this. Which partners can you work best with and what's the topology of the network?

How do you best shape the governance and structure of the partnership? What are the mission and identity of the collaboration? How do you ensure decisiveness in the partnership?


Cooperation involves both substantive arguments and personal relationships and relationships; it's therefore always an interplay of people who may or may not want something. It transcends the individual but at the same time everyone takes themselves along in a collaboration and if more people work together on a task, there are social-psychological processes and group dynamics.

Personal relationships and relationships always play an important role. Inclusion and exclusion; who does and who doesn't? Power; who's in charge? How can you exert influence? Leadership; what's everyone's role in the process?

Build effective collaboration

Working on a successful cooperative relationship mainly results in administrative design issues. Such as: choice of areas and ways of working together, selecting the partners, making the (contractual) agreements, organizing the working together, the manner of management and management of the working relationship.


"What forms of cooperation can or should the organization apply in view of its objectives, how should the organization organize cooperation, and which consultation and organizational structures are appropriate for this?"

Four basic forms of collaboration

Not every form of cooperation is effective for a given purpose and circumstance; a situation and a time joint require an 'own' form of cooperation. The organization can professionalise cooperation by examining which form of cooperation best suits the goal: the choice of the basic form of cooperation. There are four different basic forms of cooperation that are available to the director for this, namely exploratory cooperation, entrepreneurial cooperation, functional cooperation and transactional cooperation.

Intent and nature of the cooperation

At its core, these are always two questions that relate to the purpose of the cooperative relationship. These questions are about the intention and nature of the collaboration:

- Intention of the collaboration: improvement versus innovation. Does the organization want to work (improve) smarter? or do they want to discover (renew) new possibilities?
- Nature of the collaboration: sharing versus exchanging. Does the collaboration require a lot of coordination between organizations (sharing and partially operating business functions and processes)? or does the organization limit cooperation to a sustainable form of exchange (exchange of products, services, information, knowledge)?

Depending on the objective, situation and moment, directors make choices about the parties they work with. Afterwards there's always a discussion about the form and design

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