In the product development community, collaboration is an emerging concept and can be thought about as a process. Collaboration appears in Product Manager’s blogs, in product development books and journals as well as the topic of many product development seminars. Collaboration and collaborative relationship should not be mistaken for the 90′s buzzword, partnership. In product development, collaboration is being conceptualized as a process that is embodied by three main components:
First, to help understand collaboration, it is helpful to consider what it is not collaboration. For distinction, collaboration is not a partnership. Partnerships focus on transactional relationships. To simplify the concept, a partnership implies transactions from one party to another, such as a legally binding relationship where documents are signed for the delivery of products and services for the exchange of money. Collaboration is an idea sharing process where business needs, information and knowledge are willingly contributed and problem solving begins.
To move from partnership thinking to collaboration, we can view collaboration as a process where we focus our energies on one component of the process at a time, then widen our perspective back to the concept of collaboration. The first step in the collaborative process is creating client-centered dialogue.
Creating client-centered dialogue requires the development of an open and trusting environment. Creating this environment requires a shift in our context or paradigm from “me” or “my” to “you” and “ours,” and most importantly that of the end user. We shift from an internal paradigm: “Let me tell you about me and my products, my services…,” to focusing on our customers paradigm by asking, “What are your goals for your products and services? What types of challenges are you facing? What needs are being left unfulfilled?”
When we collaborate, we intentionally shift our thinking to that of our clients wants, needs and desires. We then are free to ask open-ended questions, actively listen and brainstorm ideas. Through shifting our paradigm, we change our dialogue and we begin the collaborative process.
Creating client-centered dialogue allows opportunities for the free flow of information, thereby, true business and end-user’s needs can be uncovered. When we discover these true needs (or gaps), a different opportunity presents itself, the opportunity to innovate! Thereby, we create a unique and differentiated value for the end-user. Additionally, the intentional focus on collaboration can be purposed to lowering overall unit prices, quickening response times, and lowering inventory levels while enhancing the end users’ experience with our products and services.
In the first essential step in collaborating, we are initiating client-centered dialogue to begin achieving an opportunity to create an exceptional value for the client(s). To continue the value creation in the collaborative process, it is necessary to analyze and determine how to synchronize with client systems.
Stay tuned for my next blog, where I will discuss my methods on how organizations can synchronize systems to deliver exceptional value to clients.