Free Association

Strategic cooperation as a superior business paradigm isn’t new.  It’s been around for millennia.  It’s a staple for management consultants. Coopetition was  a big buzz word in the 90s.  There is a resurgence every decade or two when an economic sector goes bust due to unfettered capitalism, a  less-militaristic US Administration takes power, or both.  It’s always amusing to see it rediscovered as if it’s a new and radical concept.

We’ve long promoted alliances at DallasBlue from our Entrepreneurs group, which advocates partnerships as a key strategic lever for startups, to Tribe Blue, which is founded on group support and empowerment.

I especially like the term “Free Association” from William Dunk Partners of Global Province.  Much of today’s workforce are indeed free agents.  They don’t just work for or with one company, but with many organizations.  They freely choose their associations, from consulting work to founding or working for new ventures to volunteering.

William Dunk Partners is a savvy and prescient group that has long advocated a rational view of the world from politics to business.  This week’s issue explores Free Assocation with examples  from “no drama with Obama” to Sony’s amicable co-chairs to organizational interoperability to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Here is an excerpt with their definition of Free Association.

On the Global Province, we have claimed that the predominant catalyst for organizations that would seek to be global is not mergers and acquisitions, but alliances where companies, governments, and others cooperate freely even though they have no fiscal or legal bonds, but instead move in concert because they have the will to work together.  We call this “Free Association.”

What we did not make clear there is that alliance-making requires a temperament and decorum that is very much counter to the age of celebrity.  No entity, no matter its competitive advantages, that wishes to operate on a global scale has the resources or the implicit power to be effective on a go-it-alone basis.  What’s required is a culture that celebrates gentle dialogue between those inside the walls of an organization and with those in other institutions 25,000 miles away. This requires people who are in control of their mouths and their egos.

 

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