Instant collaborative business networks

As a facilitator I do a lot of work with groups of small businesses who say they are interested in "collaborating as a network" (whatever that means). The conventional approach to working with such a group is to first build some trust, exchange company information and then start exploring collaboration possibilities. The problem is that this approach does not really work!


Photo: Instant Snow - just add water.

The first problem is that it usually takes far too long, never gains enough momentum or continuity and the companies lose interest and drop out.

The second major problem with it is this:

Let's imagine you have invested in building "enough trust" with the group - what do you do if you find after all this effort and time that you don't actually have the right companies in the network?

So I will share with you a technique I try to use in my very first meeting with a potential network of companies or professionals which overcomes all these problems - "Instant Network".

Instant Network is one of about 15 techniques you can use with networks, teams and communities.

The main objective of "Instant Network" is to find out if there are enough potential collaborative supply chains within the group to make a network or not.

The other objective, which is just as important, is to do this very quickly in a way, which is highly interactive, engaging, and develops new relationships.

In addition I always try and send each participant away with at least one new 'channel to market opportunity' even if they never come to another network meeting.

There is a very important rule when working with small businesses - never ever waste their time at a workshop - always send them away with something they value - even if the workshop cannot deliver its primary objective.

The aim of "Instant Network" is to establish collaborative sub-clusters by identifying collaborative product/service offers and companies who can play the following roles:


Here is an abridged version of how "Instant Network" works:

Step 1
Everyone identifies their core business offer and puts it on a YELLOW card with their name and sticks it up on a large whiteboard. I call these YELLOW cards Core Product Providers.

Step 2
Everyone reads all the cards and must fill out at least one BLUE card and sticks it beside any Core Product card (YELLOW) that they believe they might be able to produce a new customer for. I call these BLUE cards Channels.

Step 3
Everyone also fills out at least one PURPLE card for any YELLOW card that they believe they have some knowledge or product which could make a core product more valuable. They stick these up too beside the YELLOW Core Product cards -I call these PURPLE cards Innovators.

Step 4
We examine the whiteboard and see how many natural sub-clusters made up of Core Product Providers, one or more Channels and one or more Innovators we can find.

Step 5
I then ask the participants to look for opportunities to merge these sub-clusters with the objective having of not more than 4 merged clusters. Also each merged cluster should have least 4 players one of whom should be a channel or it is not viable.

Step 6
I then get the participants to go back to work on these merged clusters to explore the possibilities and requirements for three further roles and they stick more cards into the clusters on the whiteboard for:

  • RED - Supporting Service Provider - provides a critical supporting service for the collaborative product

  • ORANGE - Integrator - plays a key design or integration role in the new collaborative product

  • GREY - Investor - can provide finance or resources needed to make the collective supply chain viable and attractive to the market

Step 7
We then do a quick 'tidyup' to name and scope each of the merged clusters as "collaborative product offers". Then we close-out by seeking feedback from each of the participants to see if they are intrigued enough to want to collaborate further to develop each of the merged clusters.


Foundations for an 'Instant Collaborative Network'
... consisting of 3-4 potential collaborative supply chains
... with self-selecting work groups
... who want to work together to establish their feasibility, identify required additional players and develop a strategy and plan for each of them.


The bottom line is that a single enterprise can define its strategy first and then go and try and acquire the necessary resources and skills to implement it. However business networks don't work like this.

A business network's strategy and viability is only established by first examining its collective capabilities to see what it can actually do.

Only then does any network strategy for business development, marketing, new product development and alliances make any sense.

If you get this first network engagement right then you are well on the way to starting the incubation of a successful and sustainable collaborative business network

Comments (0)| Related (3) |

Print this article


Bioteams Books Reviews

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration

Steven Poole, writing for the Guardian on Saturday March 15, reviews "Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration", by Keith Sawyer and concludes that the book's big idea is that there is no such thing as the lone genius: everything turns out to be collaborative.

Buy it now from:

(2) |

continue reading

Click here to check all Bioteams book reviews

Ken's LinkedIn Profile

Follow Ken's Blogs

NASA Widget2_160x40.jpg


Featured Categories

Trending Topics

agility analytics ants autopoiesis bees biomimicry bioteaming bioteams change management collaboration Collaboration collective intelligence community complex systems dashboards digital dashboards ecosystems excel experiential learning flock games high-performing teams HPT innovation leadership learning meetings mobile phones organizational teams penguins pheromones self-managed teams serious games simulators social media Social Networks social networks social software swarm swarm intelligence swarmteams teams teamwork The Networked Enterprise tit for tat VEN videos virtual communities virtual enterprise virtual enterprise networks virtual teams visualization web2.0 wisdom of crowds

Click for more...

Featured Article

Team joining hands

The secret DNA of high-performing virtual teams

Bioteaming – the secret to high-performing, self-organising, virtually networked teams... more

Locations of visitors to this page

Bioteams iphone app
Bioteams android app


Bioteams Lite


Latest Full Articles

Bioteams Assessor - Instantly check how good your team is?
BioScore Calculator – Instantly see if you need Bioteams
Discover Bioteams principles Yourself via Action Learning

Bioteams Manifesto

Communities and Networks Connection

Bioteams Ice-Breaker Zone

Only Fools and Horses Video Clip Funny Team Collaboration Video Dilbert Mission Statement Generator Ali G Video Funny Red Dwarf Video  FatherTed  Pixar

News Feed

Sign up for RSS   RSS Feed Subscription
        (What's RSS?)

10 Most popular posts

Recent posts


Download Browsealoud