How and Why You Need Think Differently about External Collaboration

As more and more enterprises are either invited, challenged, or forced to rethink their operations, a recurring theme is one of collaboration and cooperation. Simply put, you don’t have to (and often simply can’t) go it alone. While blind, anonymous outreach never solved anyone’s problems, how can an organization look more sharply beyond its own walls? And to whom, exactly, should it be looking, anyway?

You have more in common with others than you think you do. 2nd Story, for whom I'm also as a series producer, pairs staged literary readings with complementary musical underscoring. At our core then, our stable of partners consists of writers, actors, and musicians crafting a live experience. Yet if we look at the larger picture, the collective goal broadens from the specific “live story presentation” to the all-encompassing “creating a shared experience around live story presentation” and the parameters change with it; suddenly the list of possible collaborators grows by leaps and bounds. With respect to our creative product, the artists will always be our most immediate partners, but in terms of our ultimate mission, our list of true collaborators also includes the bars, restaurants, and performance halls we call home. Why? Because they and we are both after the same ultimate ends, even if by very different means.

Your competitors are not always your competition. Obviously it’s important to keep an eye on what like-minded outfits are up to, but sometimes working with the neighbors, rather than against them, can be a boon for all involved. Craft and microbreweries, for example, do this all the time, and for good reason: not only do the involved parties get to partake in a wholly new enterprise but, on a practical level, splitting up distribution and production costs means less exposure for each party (and, by extension, fewer roadblocks between the product and the customer). Are they potentially helping their rivals? Sure—but not at the expense of helping themselves, so what’s the harm?

You have great ideas. But so do others. Now get out there and find them.

Andrew Reilly is an associate producer for 2nd Story, a live reading series and fully chartered non-profit organization based in Chicago. His nonfiction has appeared in Alarm, The A.V. Club, and The Beachwood Reporter, among others, and he once upon a time wrote and edited the award-winning 35th Street Review White Sox blog. His fiction and essays have also been featured in a number of print and online publications based in some unknown number of cities, but he still calls Chicago home, just as he has since leaving the north suburbs where he grew up.

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