The art of collaboration

The art of collaboration
Published: 26 November 2019

When Eliud Kipchoge recently became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, it was clearly a feat of remarkable endurance. I can, however, understand why it is not being ratified as a legitimate world record – running is the purest form of human endeavour, yet this felt like a record that elevated it to something more akin to Formula One.

Obviously there has to be an unbelievable athlete at the heart of this challenge, but look at what else was brought to bear to break the two hour barrier: sponsorship from INEOS; forty-two world class runners providing rotated pace-making; a car beaming green lasers onto the road to indicate the required speed; bikes to support refuelling; carefully selected flat terrain with banked corners; the right climate; monitored air quality; optimum start-time; cheering spectators; space-age shoes – nothing was left to chance. Surely this admirable feat is a triumph of the team as much as the individual; and a reflection of what can be achieved if people collaborate.

There are excellent examples of the importance of collaboration in the manufacturing and engineering landscape I serve. Leaders increasingly recognise that external cooperation can be critical to future success. Maximising the opportunities of rapid technology innovation requires corporations to seek mutually beneficial partnerships.

In automotive, traditional secrecy is giving way to acceptance that collaboration is vital in order to develop new business models that will survive and thrive. Electric and self-driving vehicles, ride sharing apps, retail services, new ownership models and other innovations are challenging traditional thinking. As Jim Farley, Ford’s Global Markets President, recently stated, “Tech partnerships have never been more important, and they’re only going to grow in importance.”

In aerospace, there have long been joint ventures and consortiums created to deliver programmes of scale. Collaboration is being further evolved, for example the 2019 Boeing/Safran creation Initium Aerospace; set up to design, build and service Auxiliary Power Units.

In energy markets it is estimated that demand could increase by around a third by 2040, creating what BP terms the ‘Dual Challenge’ – greater demand but with the critical requirement for lower emissions. BP is looking at partnerships with companies to test ideas in arenas such as renewable energy and electric vehicle charging networks, to meet this challenge.

So, hats off to Eliud Kipchoge, the spearhead for one of the world’s greatest ever collaborations which accelerated the breaking of the two-hour barrier. Similarly, companies that work together can speed up development time, share investment risk and resources, and get products to market more quickly. Strong leadership is critical to understand where collaboration can add value and ensure survival in the complex digital landscape in which companies operate. Manufacturing organisations need to seek and encourage strategic partnerships, driven by modern leaders that we can help you find.

David Thomas is a Partner in Berwick Partners’ Manufacturing & Engineering Practice. He focuses on recruiting senior operations, technical and commercial management positions within the advanced materials, aerospace, capital equipment and precision engineering sectors. For more information, please contact David on 0121 654 5955 or drop him an email.

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