Collaboration seems to be a word thrown around quite a bit. But what does it really mean and why do it? How successful is the practice being implemented? And what avenues are there to do so?

Business has been, always, a form of competition - who can make the most, who can do it first, the fastest, who will own the market? Often big business drives out the small players, seemingly having lower operational costs by pooling corporate resources, moving to more online, complex data management systems and other such strategies. But is it really a better way to do things?

It's definitely not the only way.

One great strategy is to maintain a specialized focus in business, and then pool small complementary companies to work together to accomplish a larger set of goals. Utilize primary project managers to oversee the compilation and coordination of the teams and all activities into the whole.

When smaller distinct companies collaborate together on a project, they are forced to engage a lot, to understand the big picture, to be clear about each other's roles and responsibilities, and to understand how each groups' work impacts the others. There is a greater driver for the lead to have done more research at the front end, to really find and approach the most applicable service or technology providers to work together - those who might offer the best solutions.

Such teams work together to assess the whole scope of the project together, to identify the best options and approaches to move forward, to challenge each other and identify improvement and optimization opportunities, and to refine the scope and the objectives or targets of a project collectively. Perhaps because they don't know each other as well, because the lines of accountability need to be more defined, because each groups' distinct approaches need to be fully understood in order to define all of the relevant risks for that project. Or maybe its because, in order to compete with larger firms, these companies are determined to show great value to their clients. Whatever the reasons, these projects typically have great outcomes - innovative and unique solutions, better performance and reduced costs for the client.

I see and hear about a lot of innovative collaboration happening now, especially on the research front, and for projects meant to improve global health, standards of living, and environmental protection and sustainability. Often these involve development of students, directed studies, and pooled funding from various sources. Some of the benefits to this approach include:

- multi-disciplinary team perspectives bring new ideas and identify more risks and opportunities for a project

- including educational institutions, research or technological developers on your team provides access to new and unique testing methods, technologies and software or code, and approaches to doing things

- pooling clients with common issues can lower the costs of finding solutions for each party, especially if the results of each parties' past studies are compiled and assessed as a starting point

- funding agencies often offer additional funds for collaborative projects, when aligned with their particular focus areas

Perhaps you have contributed to some of these projects and can help promote this approach, or maybe you have a project that you require assistance on.

Below are just 3 great examples of many more that I have discovered.

On the sustainability front, the 2Degrees network is working on a great new initiative  - a Global Collaboration Map. On the map, you can find various sustainability projects around the world that are either in progress, or have been accomplished through collaborative approaches. And you can add yours to it. 

On the geology front, I recently came across the SGDS Hive project, which is an interesting approach to collaborating for exploration projects - but also applicable to other project types.

On the mining front, I myself am involved with the development of collaborative projects in mining, on a zero waste environmental initiative with the Canadian Mining Innovation Council. This group is working on improving many aspects of mining, and looking for more collaborators to work with. Will you join us?

Check them out, bring your projects forward for support, or find another opportunity to engage in. And leave a comment below - what is your perspective on this topic? Do you have any other collaborative groups you would highlight?