Innovating Across Organisational Boundaries

Today, more than ever, organisational leaders must be able to orchestrate winning, innovative partnerships with external parties if they are to get ahead and stay ahead. Leaders must act as influential connectors who can win the minds and trust of those people they potentially have no direct control over – but who are nonetheless paramount to success.

August 2015

Too often, however, organisations in dominant positions manage their external partners like vendors rather than strategic partners. This destructive approach causes organisations ‘to play suppliers and collaborators off against each other and to avoid partnerships that require some power sharing’. True partnerships can’t function as predefined contracts that depend on maximising control – especially those partnerships where innovation is at stake. This merely undermines real value creation and raises the risk of conflict.

True partnerships exhibit a number of special characteristics:

  1. New conditions will arise that can rule-out any initial deal or terms – but partners stick by each other to create new deals
  2. Processes are established for joint decision making
  3. Uncertainties are structured and managed to share risk and new investments
  4. Processes are put in place to cultivate partner communication and trust-building

Sources: Gomes-Casseres, B. (2011) A Partnership Is Not a Purchase Order, HBR, May 16; Hughes, J. (2008) From Vendor to Partner: Why and How Leading Companies Collaborate with Suppliers for Competitive Advantage, Global Business and Organizational Excellence, 27(3), 21-37.

Referenced techniques


Relationship Models

The concept describes the type of connections and associations between buyers and suppliers, and discusses some of the relationship models and their advantages and weaknesses.


Collaborative Relationships in Procurement

This concept reviews collaborative relationships and explored how they have evolved from transaction process-based agreements to collaborative processes based on trust and information-sharing.


Supply Chain Integration

The concept reviews integration and cooperation in supply chains and discusses the professional tools, business evidence and critical success factors of this process.

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