Thursday, March 16, 2023

Tips from Korea for Successful Collaborations at Scale

Large organizations have many stakeholders and a variety of teams with different objectives that potentially benefit from collaboration programs or partnerships. The first thing many organizations do when they consider how to pursue any form of collaboration is to identify the needs of business or product teams. In larger organizations, these needs are then typically brought to the attention of a partnership or business development team. 

Is it a change to an ongoing business? Partnership. 
Is it an innovation trying to commercialize? Business Development. 
Is it a new initiative with an existing partner? Probably both. 
Is an investment team looking for deal flow? Open Innovation or Accelerator team. 

All these functions exist in one form or another in every large organization. Structure, culture, politics, and other variables can alter how they are implemented. While there are always pros and cons to how they are implemented, one thing remains the same: people. 

People are the core component of any organization, so what are some things that people could keep in mind to ensure the highest probability of success? 

Having lived in Korea for many years, I thought it would be interesting to frame this with fairly common Korean expressions: 

1. 뛰는 놈 위해 나는 놈 있다
(Above a running man there is a flying one) 

Be humble. Remember that the people around you are talented and have much to contribute. Vigilantly maintaining an appreciation for the expertise, vision, and passion of people both within our own organizations and those within the organizations we are working with is fundamental.  

2. 사공이 많으면 배가 산으로 간다 (If there are too many captains, the boat goes to the mountain)

Leadership matters. Once there is a vision or goal in place, having clear leadership to steer a team forward is essential. Debate and open communication are critical for identifying the best ideas and forming a consensus around a vision or goal, but then it’s important people know who is making the decisions so they can quickly prioritize and collaborate efficiently. 

3. 시작이 반이다 (Well begun is half done) 

Get started. Especially in large organizations, even when there is a strategy already in place, getting a project started can take time. Getting approval really can feel like half the journey. But more importantly, accelerating this process as much as possible means there is more time to learn from the market, adjust your plans, and thereby improve the probability of success. 

4. 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다 (Even a monkey falls from a tree)

Mistakes happen. Many innovations are born from failure, keeping this in mind helps accelerate the time it takes to get started, encourages creativity and builds trust.

5. 호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 산다 (Attacked by a tiger, if you keep calm you can survive)

Stay calm. Sometimes mistakes lead to crises, other times crises are the unavoidable result of external forces. As we progress with a partnership a lot of things can change, and how we react to them is within our power to control. After an initial panic (after all, it’s a tiger!) take time to relax and assess the situation, then look for solutions. Often there is a way to resolve the issue and sometimes it opens doors to new opportunities. 

6. 등잔 밑이 어둡다 (It’s dark underneath the lamp)

The answers are sometimes under your nose. When run into challenges, it’s important to remember that while finding a way to overcome them the solutions could be simple. Reflecting on the reasons why you started can help assess what the options are. 

7. 고생 끝에 낙이 온다 (At the end of suffering comes joy)

Be resilient. Whether or not you find a suitable answer to a problem preventing the success of an initiative, the experience will lead to rewards. You will have learned invaluable lessons, and deepened your relationships with people within and outside your organization which will lead to other opportunities to build successful businesses together.  

Whether you are a Project Manager leading a specific initiative, or an Executive setting high-level goals and supporting the progress of several initiatives, these ideas are helpful to reinforce a positive mindset with your colleagues and partners from start to finish.