Innovation Through Collaboration: Building Partnerships for a Smarter Future

Innovation Through Collaboration: Building Partnerships for a Smarter Future

Inspired Selection were proud to host our second episode in our webinar series – “Innovation Through Collaboration: Partnerships for a Smarter Future", with a wonderful panel of speakers (Kerry Houchen, Partnerships Director at Coursera, Eela Devani, Strategy & Digital Director at CLA, and Phill Jones, Co-Founder of MoreBrains Consulting) to talk about the importance of fostering innovation through collaboration and by instituting effective partnerships.

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Why are partnerships important and how do you make one work?

We kicked off discussing the value of partnering up with another company and what this means across different facets of publishing. As Eela pointed out, there are mainly two types of external partnerships, the client-supplier one, and the one where two similar organisations come together through a commercial model. In the first one, publishers can, for instance, partner up with IT providers to deliver their content via new technological solutions, and this can be a brilliant way for a business to extend their market reach and to deliver more cost-effective services. In the second type, companies can combine different sets of experiences and expertise to work on bigger projects together. Phil also spoke about the benefits of mutual accountability and support that come with a partnership-based internal structure.

So, what is the secret ingredient for a successful partnership? First, it needs to be mutually beneficial, and there needs to be trust and openness between the two parties. Kerry mentioned the importance of agreeing on everybody’s roles and responsibilities, and discussing all the goals (including all the stakeholders) from the very beginning, but she also talked about the need for synergy in the working methods and of the two cultures coming together.  Once the partnership is launched, Eela suggested to introduce regular checkpoints and review points to monitor how it is going, and whether both sides are still capable of delivering what was agreed on. Sometimes, an agreement sounds good on paper, but there’s the risk of a mismatch in being able to provide certain technology or expertise, and Phill stressed how crucial it is for both sides to understand and define each other’s capability and performance.

Internal collaboration in the times of covid

Publishing as an industry has always revolved around collaboration among creative and talented individuals, and now that this can no longer occur face-to-face, organisations have been forced to come up with alternative ways to allow ideas to be shared. We asked our panel their views on internal collaboration in the times of lockdown, and what they thought were great ways to keep up the internal sharing of ideas and creativity without being able to “bounce off ideas” in the office space anymore. An amazing discovery that Phill’s team came to by experimenting with multichannel tools for brainstorming (infinity boards) was that a lot more people found their voice and felt encouraged to express their ideas. Compared to in-person meetings, these brainstorming sessions did not seem to favor a kind of people over others, and it gave everyone an outlet to express thoughts, regardless of gender, cultural background, introversion, neurodivergence, etc. Different people feel comfortable expressing ideas in different ways, and companies need to keep this in mind if they want every employee to feel free to contribute. Our speakers gave some great tips on how business leaders can incentivise a creative culture from the top, which included:

  • Allowing employees to submit ideas discretely and through various channels
  • Involving the person who came up with the idea in the product development and realisation process, if the idea is taken forward and implemented
  • Keeping in mind that everyone in the company has potential for ideas, not just the creative departments, and ideas can be on anything, from new initiatives, to a new product line, or better processes
  • Creating a safe environment where the people do not feel they are at risk for sharing ideas, by removing penalty for failure and rewarding employees for coming up with ideas, even if they are not successful

Our panel closed with a Q&A session – one of the questions asked by our attendees was around tips for freelancers on how to make themselves visible to publishers as people open to collaboration. Our speakers agreed that there are different ways to network at the moment, and that people should not be afraid of emailing a contact asking for a catch up and that there are a lot of virtual events going on that are replacing the old in person networking drinks. Virtual lattes anyone?

From academic publishers learning to cooperate through Plan S to build a better future for the sharing of research, to communities where writers can give feedback on their peers’ work, this panel brought to light many fantastic aspects of how collaboration and building partnerships helps creating a brighter publishing future.  

We want to thank our fantastic panel for their insights on how collaborating and building partnerships can lead to innovation and to building a better and brighter future!

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