“No man is an island,” a line written nearly 400 years ago, is relevant again today, this time in the business world. More businesses are working in the spirit of collaboration to get help addressing some of our more significant challenges. That’s in part because there are serious concerns in the market at the moment — growing cybersecurity threats, workforce development issues, the Amazonification of just about everything — that have encouraged many to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Partnerships are being used to advance broader interests. For instance, Cleveland Clinic and IBM launched a 10-year partnership in March to establish the Discovery Accelerator. It will use high-performance computing — artificial intelligence and quantum computing technologies — to advance the pace of discovery in health care and life sciences. The collaborators expect that their research and clinical infrastructure will empower big-data-driven medical research. That will be facilitated in part by the installation of the first private-sector IBM Quantum System One commercial quantum computer in the U.S. on Cleveland Clinic’s Cleveland campus.
As Fast Company highlighted in a March article, two companies came together during unique and challenging circumstances to help when it was needed most. Ventec Life Systems, a Washington-based medical device company, was producing ventilators when the COVID crisis caused a shortage of the machines. To scale up its production rate and meet demand, the company partnered with General Motors, modifying a production facility in Indiana and training hundreds of employees, ultimately upping its monthly production of the machines from 150 to more than 10,000.
Partnerships can take lots of forms to achieve many different ends. A July 2020 article by McKinsey & Co. suggests that there are benefits to closer relationships between buyers and suppliers. For example, they can work together to develop new products, optimize their supply chain, or collaborate in forecasting, planning and capacity management to improve service levels and mitigate risks. A McKinsey survey of 100 large organizations in multiple sectors cited in the article found companies that regularly collaborated with suppliers demonstrated higher growth, lower operating costs and greater profitability than their industry peers.
The business ecosystem is accustomed to collaboration. Peer groups and industry associations have for years enabled business leaders to get a broader perspective on the market and learn how others are addressing bigger-picture challenges. As we all come to face increasingly serious threats in the market, there may be opportunities to strengthen our collective position against them by working together.
Fred Koury is President and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.