Traditionally, the concept of success through collaboration in the business world has been focused on eliminating competition to find success in ways that benefit the industry the competitors share.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, success through collaboration was redefined when two tech giants, Apple and Google, collaborated on contact tracing technology in an effort to combat the virus in their own way and simultaneously save lives. But with a sudden economic downturn due to a worldwide lockdown, what exactly were they thinking by doing this?

Collaboration for the Greater Good

Instead of competing, they were collaborating and forming a strategic alliance. In this case, they were collaborating not just for profit, but for the greater good of humankind in a crisis.

While most companies looked to protect their vested interests during the lockdown by shutting out the world and focusing on increasing their bottom line however they could, those two wildly successful corporations out of Silicon Valley took to an unlikely strategic alliance, collaborating not only to keep themselves up and running as essential businesses, but also to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in their own way.

The old model of merely going head to head with other organizations is far from extinct, but collaboration offers several key advantages that competition can’t possibly provide as we saw even in the worst of times—during a pandemic and global shutdown. These advantages are not solely limited to times of complete crisis; they are crucial to success in a world characterized by exponential change, which is the one we live in.

Share Resources 

Let’s first focus on the concept of collaboration. Collaborating with other organizations and individuals—even those you might consider competitors—can prove a powerful strategy in meeting and overcoming the challenges of today’s marketplace. One obvious advantage is pooled financial resources, but compelling reasons for collaboration don’t end there.

Collaboration allows organizations to leverage shared resources, creativity and other means with which solutions can be identified in less time and with greater cost efficiency.

That was particularly true with regard to building ventilators and equipment necessary during the early stages of COVID-19. For instance, for GE Medical and other companies traditionally known to have cornered the market on manufacturing medical equipment during traditional times, it was impossible to handle the quantity they were suddenly tasked with in order to save countless lives around the world.

Therefore, companies like Ford Motor Company stepped up and began using their equipment to aid in creating components to ventilators in order to expedite the process. This and other examples like it underscore the dynamics of collaboration. A decision to collaborate can overcome challenges and obstacles that may otherwise be insurmountable, especially when time is of the essence.

Transform Competition Into Strategic Alliances with Collaboration

As we move into the “new normal” following the COVID-19 pandemic, and likewise during traditional times, it takes an enormous commitment of funds and other resources necessary to develop new products and penetrate new markets, and few organizations command the means to go it alone all of the time.

Removing the stigma surrounding collaboration with others in similar industries is crucial for the success of many products that would never see the light of day without teamwork.

In order to remove this stigma, one should view a collaboration with a competitor in a similar industry as a strategic alliance. In the retail industry, which is ripe with both digital disruption and tremendous competition, very few companies can do it all; therefore, where one is lacking, another can be aiding. This builds on that concept of pooling finances and breaks down the barriers that lead to a total takeover of one market.

Are You Collaborating or Cooperating With Your Alliance?

What’s brought collaboration into a greater light is the growing speed of transformational innovation—not mere change, but game-changing digital disruption. Given that ever-faster rate of transformation, collaboration isn’t so much an option as it is a growing necessity.

It’s important to distinguish between cooperation and collaboration when forming a strategic alliance. Many organizations think they’re collaborating when, in fact, they’re merely cooperating. You cooperate because you have to, whereas you collaborate because you want to.

Collaboration is tied to abundance—rather than fighting to keep your share intact, collaboration allows organizations to work together to make a bigger pie for everyone. It’s inclusive and expansive.

In the case of Google and Apple collaborating during the coronavirus pandemic, it was tied to a greater good for humanity’s health, which in turn provided both companies a piece of the pie that neither one nor the other alone could successfully accomplish.

That said, ask yourself these questions:

  • With whom could we collaborate to, in effect, grow a bigger market share for everyone?
  • Are we really collaborating with others or just cooperating?

Competing and cooperating with others can work well under certain circumstances, but in a market where the speed of innovation is imperative, it can be far more productive and successful to collaborate with a strategic alliance in your industry, which provides a means by which you co-create the future together with others.

The Anticipatory Organization is one where rivals become strategic alliances. Learn more about specific times when collaboration is key, get The Anticipatory Organization from or take a look at my Anticipatory Leader Membership.