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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sharing knowledge between companies.

Increasingly, organizations are entering into collaborative partnerships to buy knowledge instead of holding it in house, access knowledge that could extend the reach of the firm's capabilities or generate new intellectual capital.

Here are five top tips to consider when looking to develop a relationship with an external company.

1. Consider that inter-organizational relationships can usually be categorized as one of the following;

A Supplier/buyer partnership: Whereby a firm buys in knowledge packaged as a product of service, in areas where they can't add value.

An Alliance: Where two complementing organizations combine and develop knowledge the aspects of which would be too expensive to own in house. Alliances are particularly common in fast moving technical industries.

A Consortium: Where a group of organizations combine to share various aspects of knowledge to complete one project. Consortia are frequently formed in the construction and aerospace industries, where the end product requires relies on a variety of deep technical knowledge.
An Inter-organizational community: Where a number of organizations come together to generate ideas and learn.

2. Examine which of the four types of relationship you will be entering and understand fully its needs and idiosyncrasies. For example, in an inter-organization community its critical to know how to handle shared confidential information: as well as ideas generated through the discussions. In an alliance, its critical to know how to network and build relationships and who knows what and who has influence and in a Consortium, it's vital to know when to collaborate and when to compete and understand who has the influence to cut through obstructions.

3. When developing a relationship team, it's important to select people who naturally enjoy networking and relationship building.

4. In the initial stages of an inter-organization relationship, it's worth encouraging and facilitating communication “overkill” in order to avoid any misinterpretation of language and term and ensure a message gets through.

5. “Intense” communication is important throughout the relationship.

Adapted from Sharing knowledge between companies by Jane McKenzie in the current issue of KM Review.

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