How collaborating with the competition can create change

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, is a phrase that many of us are likely to be familiar with. And not least when it comes to putting this into business; knowing who your competitors are, what they are doing and their competitive edge is a necessity. After all, how can you be the business of choice, if you cannot outdo your competitor? 

Collaborate with the enemy? No chance. In fact, if you asked many businesses to work alongside the competition, their reaction is likely to be one of refusal and ‘why would I do that?’. Collaboration was a word businesses previously shied away from. Fast-forward to the digital and start-up age, and it’s become a necessity in order to drive innovation and change. 

The age of instant means that we’ve become much more accustomed to collaboration. Secrecy which previously surrounded an industry or organisation is now just a Google search and click away. This coupled with the fact that we have a ‘just Google how to do it’ mentality, means that we can all effectively start a business. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are all capable of coming up with an innovative product or service, or starting or running a business. But it does perhaps demonstrate that we are all capable of effecting change, and have a mindset of ‘if someone else isn’t doing it, then I will’.

The digital age means that consumers can more publicly address the issues that they find with a business or industry, and with the internet at their fingertips, they will be the first to find a solution.

Businesses are born because they find a solution to an existing issue. Take some of the businesses developed over recent years which rely on collaboration to provide the solution as an example. Deliveroo is reliant upon collaboration with local food outlets and restaurant chains in order to be able to offer its service. Without collaboration, it wouldn’t be able to provide food to those who want to enjoy it in the comfort of their own home, from restaurants that are unable to offer their own delivery service. Likewise, Uber can only offer its service of providing taxis from an app if it works with established taxi drivers. 

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These businesses are reliant upon collaboration with those who are already an established brand or company, or industry experts. Without collaboration, those businesses wouldn’t be able to offer their service; and nor would we if we weren’t to partner with established car manufacturers and service providers.

When an idea develops, our first instinct is to keep it completely guarded. Telling a competitor or someone who could potentially steal the idea is a thought many aren’t keen to put into action. Yet, as the saying goes ‘a problem shared, is a problem halved’, and the same can be said for business innovation.

Read: Entrepreneurs who collaborate in the strangest places

Whether your business is there to challenge a competitor or improve the industry, it’s likely that your competition is perhaps feeling the painpoints and frustrations that your concept is proposing to change or remedy.

As we have found to be the case, and as examples in the gig and subscription economies prove - if an industry is well-aware of the issues that are currently faced, they are most welcoming to the change and collaboration that needs to occur in order to not only improve their business but the industry too.

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Collaboration is a partnership, which is based upon a relationship formed from sharing a mindset and passion for improving an industry for the better. It’s about accepting that sometimes, one organisation on its own doesn’t have all the answers and that help, even from competition, is going to have benefits for all involved.

Likewise, collaboration doesn’t need to be industry contained or ideas industry specific. At Wagonex, our business is based on the subscription model, something which we had watched revolutionise other industries, and felt that it would help to solve the issues the motor industry faced – hence a UK car subscription service was born. It’s the age old ‘think outside of the box’ mentality; often the best ideas to be found are one step removed.

Collaboration is mindset which many need to develop and embrace. After all, for those that don’t, there’s always someone who will. 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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