Collabronauts, collaboration and the cyberspace race

The old business model of fierce competition at all costs has passed and we are now entering an era of collaboration.  The ‘business is war’ mentality has made way for a model of business networks that reach out to global markets and boost sales as a unified force.

There’s no doubt that low cost and real time transfer of ideas, knowledge and skills over the Internet has made business collaboration easier.  Not only does the Internet provide a fast communication channel, but the wide reach of the Internet allows such groups to easily form in the first place, particularly among niche interests.

In today’s high-tech business world built in cyberspace, it is ‘collabronauts’ who are seeking out new universes and driving their businesses through the stratosphere.

The idea of the ‘collabronaut’ was coined by Harvard Business School academic, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who describes pioneers of the new global economy as “astronauts who explore outer space, are explorers of cyberspace, explorers of new possibilities while creating links and connections, and explorers of the possibilities that can come through collaboration”.

In her book, Evolve!: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, Kanter argues that “those willing to leave their home planet to bring back knowledge of strange new worlds and new civilisations” are masters of collaboration.

In order to deliver value to the customers, technology companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Sun have created what Kanter calls “space stations for the Internet age”. These platforms enable everyone else to use the technology; but it’s an elaborate and complex relationship, because these companies themselves also work much more closely together.

“It is more than Wal-Mart working with Procter & Gamble as a supplier,” she says. “It’s joint planning; it’s developing technology together. It’s a daily interchange.”

Ultimately, the best collabronauts are adept at making connections – both human and intellectual.  They seek out new ways to benefit from joining forces with partners.  They bring organisations closer together, create links, foster relationships and initiate partnerships that may initially seem like joining two groups from alien planets.

I’ll finish with the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead, who asked “can a small group of people who see and respond differently to the world make a difference? Indeed, history shows it is the only thing that ever has.”

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