Partnership in Practice

Meet Your Match – A New Way to Partner?

By now we are used to being matched with whatever we want, whenever we want it. ‘Alexa’ plays what we want to listen to; Amazon knows the things we like to buy; Tinder showcases the people we should meet; and Google tells us everything we need to know.

Sometimes, we are matched even when we don’t want to be. Who doesn’t have that well-meaning friend who just ‘had to get you’ to meet someone you really had nothing in common with at all? Maybe you are that well-meaning friend.

Having countless choices is simply a part of our daily lives, so why is it, at a time when technology should be simplifying decisions, finding the right partnership for your company or organization is still such a chore?

Having countless choices is simply a part of our daily lives, so why is it, at a time when technology should be simplifying decisions, finding the right partnership for your company or organization is still such a chore?

Surely by now there should be a clever algorithm that knows all the partnership formulas and, at the press of a button, provides a choice of up to five fabulous partner options that might work. It would certainly make life easier for many organizations and reduce unwanted work, not to mention wasted dollars.

In the name of research, I stepped into the expensive and trendy shoes of a Silicon Valley tech genius to ponder what code they would write for a new app to find the perfect partnership match. For ease, let’s call it, “PartnrFindrTM. (Back off, Bezos!)

The first bank of questions the app might ask users: Do you need to partner at all? Is partnering really the best way to accomplish your stated goal? Will it create a greater level of impact than doing the work on your own? Has your organization done this before to measurable success on its own? Have you checked that your current partners aren’t able to fulfill this need? What was missing the last time you tried this?

Creating a partnership between organizations can certainly help to combine ideas and effort, bring new resources and experiences to solve a problem, and potentially create meaningful change. But your grandmother’s advice about too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’ also rings true. Before you delve even further into PartnrFindrTM, make sure that partnering is truly the route you want and need to take.

Before you delve even further into PartnrFindrTM, make sure that partnering is truly the route you want and need to take.

I sense you’ve “swiped right” on partnering being the answer, so let’s move on to a quick review of determining what kind of partnership you need. PartnrFindrTM is an app without judgement, so the next step requires total honesty. Are you looking for a long-term relationship — an organization that aligns with your values, your ideals, and your vision of success? Or do you simply need a short-term fling — a group that can come in, collaborate with you for an agreed amount of time, create the impact needed, and then walk away knowing that there was magic made for a little while? Is this going to be something that just two of you can handle, or is a wider circle required? Are you all keen to ensure that you have data to back up the work you’re doing, or are you more interested in gaining influence, enhancing reputations, and scoring media hits? Be honest here! Your answer will impact the partners you attract and the results you gain.

Excellent. I sense you’re still swiping right. PartnrFindrTM is building your profile! What information do we add into the melting pot of our matchmaking app next? Ah, yes – do you have the right people and resources? This isn’t about whether your prospective partner has the right skills, but whether you do. Any prospective partner is looking at what you can bring to the table. Do you know how to lead, manage, or be in a partnership? Do you have the funds and resources already agreed to get things going? Do you have the people who can manage it or buy in from those who need to approve it?

Partnership is about more than leading or telling, it’s about working in harmony with others, listening, compromising, mediating, accepting change, and practicing patience when things go wrong. Make sure that you are set up internally before you go out to match. You can’t expect perfection from a future partner if you’re still a work-in-progress yourself.

It feels like we may be getting closer to the big reveal. You now know that you want a partner, you know what kind of partner you’re looking for, and you have clarity about what you can bring to the table. The last element is combining all this information and seeing where PartnrFindrTM leads you.

But that, fellow app users, must wait for another day. In the next installment of Partnership in Practice, we’ll answer the question of “what on earth are we actually doing” to determine what problem your partnership is going to solve. Until then, keep swiping!


Cate O’Kane is a partnership and collaboration strategist at &co. For more information on how to start, sustain, or support a partnership, visit www.co-partnerships.com.

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