Building an alliance

A study of international alliances found that two-thirds  of the alliances between equally matched partners were successful but where there was a significant  imbalance of power almost 60% of alliances failed. Consequently in the case of a formal joint venture equal ownership is the most successful structure, 50-50 ownership being twice as likely to succeed as other ownership structures. ~ Managing Collaboration

When we created the Internet Time Alliance we were five independent consultants, all with many years working alone. We wanted to do something together but did not want to become a typical professional services company, with principals, junior staff and administrative support, all driven by sales & marketing.

Now the six of us continue to work as individuals but we are increasingly realizing the power of our alliance, which is driven by our almost daily narration of our professional work. Internally, we are completely transparent and it’s often quite amazing how quickly we can put something together, as we draw on our specific strengths and connections. More and more we are working together, sometimes in pairs, or even as a group.

People often ask, what does Internet Time Alliance really mean? Well first of all, we are all free-agents, with our individual professional practices, but we are also co-owners of our UK-based company. That means we have business presences in four countries. Jay calls internet time, the accelerated timeframe of the new economy brought on by eBusiness and the Internet. A year of Internet time may equal 7 years of calendar time. We think wikipedia’s definition of alliance aligns with our practice, “An agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests“.

One of our common goals is the democratization of work and learning, as Jay discussed recently during his trip to India and I talked about in relation to social business.

Our interlaced networks are dominated by innovators and early adopters. Most of us are early adopters in that we put into practice much of what we recommend. For example, we were early to blogging and Twitter. When our clients are ready to cross the technology adoption chasm, we can be the pathfinders. We learn from our mistakes by talking about them. We’ve learned that solving problems together is becoming the real business imperative. Sharing and using knowledge is where emerging business value lies.

Image Source: Evocator

Because our work is often on the complex and chaotic edge, our business will not grow like a traditional company. There is no formula to bottle and sell. An alliance is a business model suited for a networked world and we think it’s a good one to try out. While there is no template to follow, a good starting point is to develop a network culture.

Build trust over time by doing things together. Nurture the good things that emerge and bypass the negative things. There is no need to dwell on your weaknesses. Focus on your strengths. No contract, mission statement or charter is going to create a working alliance. We had the advantage that many of us had worked together or had known each other for a long time prior to creating the alliance.

Our own business model stays in perpetual Beta and we are often trying new “probes” to see what happens. Everything is filtered through our online conversations, often in our private activity stream, but sometimes in public, like this post. If you want to create an alliance, start with openness, transparency and diversity; but trust is what will keep you together.

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