Recently I’ve been re-reading Me to We (by Janine Garner). It is a book all about commercial collaboration and the success such an approach can have for current and aspiring (commercial) leaders. Although it is a book aimed at individuals and being a collaborative leader, it certainly has some elements that are relevant (or at least common) to collaboration for organisations as well as researchers (who may not immediately identify themselves as leaders).
In the book, Janine describes nine principles to take an individual from me to we. There are three that I thought particularly relevant to researchers and the university-industry nexus.
- Question: Described as about gaining new insight, questioning helps individual leaders understand who or what they might need next. For example, what does next look like, what skills are needed and what aren’t in progressing? These same principles can be applied to research-industry collaborations. What do I want my collaboration to look like? What skills do I need to make that happen? Why/where are my current collaborations not working?
- Contribute: Janine details contribution as a willingness to share skills and expertise at a deep level, not just a superficial exchange of a business card or LinkedIn connection. For researchers the superficial equivalent might be have a copy of my latest paper or here’s the method we recently published. As researchers connecting with industry (and vice-versa) we need to go beyond that and (as Janine says) ask How can I help you achieve your goals? This does not have to be a whole research project (or even writing a proposal together), but it probably needs to be a couple of weeks or a month of sharing real information.
- Decide: For individual leaders, the decision step (as summarised by Janine) is about keeping moving. Having a bias towards action. For researchers and the university-industry nexus the same is true. We often get stuck in paralysis by analysis looking for more or better data (about the collaboration) before we progress – not going forward or backward. As a result, we stagnate, and the collaboration (or potential for collaboration) is lost. We often look back and wonder – what ever happened to that project? Remembering that (wasted) time is the biggest killer of any collaborative project, we should rapidly embrace collaborative opportunities (and build something bigger) or respectfully decline them (keeping relationships and reputations intact for future projects).
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