Paul recently enjoyed giving a talk as part of the Re:Think initiative at the Partners Andrews Aldridge agency. Partners is part of the Engine Group and has been hosting Re:Think, an initiative to challenge conventional thinking and develop new approaches to business.
Something you can’t help but notice when your work gives you a broad perspective on business and organisational strategy across sectors and in different parts of the world is that there are an awful lot of problems. And increasingly, the nature of the kinds of problems we’ve been asked to help clients address is that they are not best solved by any one person, organisation or even sector addressing alone, in isolation.
This nagging observation has led me to question one of the most influential ideas in business – that success is based on the development of strategic competitive advantage. Surely in a time of such hyper-connectedness and evident inter-dependencies, one thing that matters more than anything you are fighting against is who you have on your side. All of which leads me to advocate the creation of strategic collaborative advantage as a radical alternative to the conventional goal of business.
These thoughts formed the basis for my thesis for Re:Think and it was a pleasure to discuss the ideas with the Partners crowd. Agencies are accustomed to some of the fiercest competition in business when they participate in the pitching process. But they also have far more insight than most businesses into the mechanics of building engagement and support.
If influence is to creating collaborative advantage what control was to creating competitive advantage, agencies could end up occupying ever more strategic positions in their client’s business activities. Could agencies replace strategic consultancies? Well when success depends more on building ideas that capture people’s imaginations and move people to get behind your goals than on an ability to control costs and benchmark business as usual, I’d rather have a Partners than a management consultancy on my side.