07 May 2007

Collaborate to Compete

Also the title of a recent book, the phrase Collaborate to Compete aptly describes the philosophy of CONII, and the move of Ontario Colleges to work together to provide a virtual research cluster or network model to facilitate application of applied research into industrial contexts. I heard about this book from a former colleague, and the core idea is a good one. The basic idea is that we can be stronger if we work together.

I thought of this book and the concept this morning while at the CONII Industry Strategy Board. This was my first attendance at this meeting, and I was impressed by the commitment of representatives from industry to the College applied research agenda. The discussion about collaboration was predicated on the application of the CONII model into industrial contexts. That is, CONII is a consortium of colleges that are collaborating on applied research. Each college either leads or is a part of a particular node on the network. If a potential industrial research partner contacts a college, and that college does not have the expertise in that area, the idea is that this college would forward the potential partner to one of the CONII member colleges that specialize in the area of concern. This is an ideal application of the virtual research cluster: an emergent phenomenon that is gaining traction with the spread of ubiquitous broadband and the ancillary network effects.

This model of collaboration and conspicuous contribution is counter to the historical competitive model that all colleges have grown in to (indeed, it is the hallmark of business in general). The idea that we can collaborate to compete has its roots in the strengths of network thinking and the kind of transparency encouraged by open source, and perhaps even the credo of hiding in plain site.

It was pointed out at the meeting that to make CONII work will require a lot of trust. The first steps have already been taken.

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