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How strong is your collaboration network?

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I’ve written a bit recently about the various stages you might go through in building up your network of external collaboration partners.  Whilst building such a network is great, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile doing a post on how you can begin to assess what you already have.  So that’s what this post will be about.

As you can probably imagine, when it comes to describing a network of whatever kind, a good way to do so is visually, so the first step is to map out your collaboration partners.  The degree of detail you deploy will depend to a large extent on the size and scope of your collaborative partners, but the key thing is that you do as much as you can to visualize both the connections you have with your partners, and also the connections they may have with each other.

If you want to make this map more detailed, you can then add more depth to this diagram by describing the kind of relationships you have with each partner, such as how well you work together and the benefits you accrue from that collaboration.

Once you’ve got to that stage of broadly visualizing your collaboration network, you can begin to analyze it.  The simplest way to do this is to count up the number of partnerships you have, and categorize them according to whether they’re open or closed.  Remember here that an open tie is one where your collaboration partner has no other partnerships within your network, whereas a closed relationship can see your partner engage with other members of your network.

It’s widely believed that predominantly open networks are optimal for innovation and for making substantial leaps forward in terms of technological improvements.  Predominantly closed networks are believed on the other hand to function better in industries where change isn’t so manifest and therefore companies can thrive with gradual improvements to their services.

It’s rare for any collaboration network to be either one or the other, so doing this simple calculation will allow you to see which way your own organization leans.  You can then compare this with your understanding of your industry and the kind of collaborations that will help you to thrive.

Finally, you can begin to make use of this analysis and begin to modify your network accordingly.  A good method for doing this is to construct a new collaboration network diagram, but this time draw it in its ideal form, with all of the collaborations you feel are important for your company to thrive.  This can include both the type of network you wish to construct and any individual partners you wish to work with.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll get a good idea of where your future strategies will go in terms of your collaborative partnerships.  I’ll talk a bit in forthcoming posts on how you can go about reshaping your partnership network.

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