Today, art is about so much more than the product of a painter and their paintbrush. New ways of doing things have emerged. In place of a traditional portrait, today you’re more likely to find collaborative, immersive pieces of work that float between collective and individual experience. They’re products of the modern world, which values connectivity, abstract and broader thinking, and a collection of components. Indeed, it’s the melting pot that is responsible for some of the value produced, not just the end result.
Now let’s think about how modern businesses with one eye on the future work. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), which will make items in our homes and cars and beyond all interconnected, will require a level of collaboration that goes far beyond what we’ve seen in the past. One company can’t do it all — they’ll be required to work with others to create a product or service that integrates with all the other components. Think of all the things that will be involved, such as advanced technologies, software, applications. It’s beyond the scope of one company. This won’t just be a one-time connection, either. It’ll be a partnership that navigates the complex world of developing technologies and consumer preferences.
If you’re struggling to think of what a digital ecosystem looks like, just take a look at a smartphone. The app stores connect millions of platform partnerships. However, these changes aren’t only evident in the tech industry, which is always primed for — and often the driving force behind — change. Virtually all industries, from banking to healthcare and the automotive industry, are seeing a shift in how they operate and collaborate.
The new way of doing things is more difficult for more traditional companies than it is for tech giants, who, as we said, are historically more open to change. Others have a more individualistic mindset; when moving forward, they usually do so in-house, or they buy a company that already exists in the field they want to enter. Even when they do end up in an ecosystem, which can be difficult not to in this day and age, it’s not the result of strategic planning. They just end up there.
It makes much more sense to actively work towards the new landscape, rather than just waiting for it to naturally form. The companies who understand this are developing their own networks of collaboration, or joining networks who are already established. But this isn’t so straightforward. The difficulty lies in building these ecosystems so that they meet the company’s end purpose, which will be gain a competitive advantage. Since this is the world we’re moving into, the ones who can meet this challenge open themselves up to huge financial rewards. The ones who don’t risk falling away.
There’s a big difference between the artwork you’ll find in the National Portrait Gallery, and the ones you’ll find in the Tate Modern. They fall under the same umbrella of ‘art,’ but they’re fundamentally different. The same can be said of the way we collaborate in today’s digital ecosystem space, which is different from how we would collaborate in the past. To get an idea about how different ways of operating can be, let’s think about the automotive industry. It used to be that car manufacturers would develop a partnership with an original equipment manufacturer in order to enter a new market, or secure parts from many hundreds of suppliers. This way of operating does still exist, but new ways have emerged. An auto company would instead utilise a large ecosystem that spans multiple industries and countries. The end result would be a car that’s about much more than just getting from A to B; it’s interdisciplinary. Consequently, we think of the car manufacturer company not so much as the sole producer of the vehicle, but rather as the creature that nudges all the players in the ecosystem in the right direction, eventually ending up with a car.
So as you can see, we’re beginning to think of collaborations in different terms than we would in the past. The makeup and execution of a collaboration is different, and it’s becoming harder to define where one industry begins and ends.
That we’re living in the “modern age” isn’t the only reason why companies are collaborating differently than in the past. There are other factors, too, as we’ll see below.
Across the world the digital age heralded a new way of conducting business, and indeed of communication. Now, it doesn’t matter if a company isn’t located in the same area as the company they want to collaborate with. They can communicate via other means, and that means that partnerships can straddle various language, cultural, and, of course, geographical barriers. Indeed, there have been studies have shown that around 90% of ecosystems spread across more than five countries, without exclusion for countries that have historically been left out of partnerships for various reasons. More than 75% involve developed and emerging markets players.
There are several issues that come up with cross-country collaborations. For example, local laws, which may be less robust and stringent than the laws of one of the companies. A lot of trust is required between companies during the collaboration process, such so much knowledge and intellectual property are shared. As such, it’s imperative that intellectual property mechanisms are in place, as well as contracts that hold all parties to account.