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Which Kind of Collaboration Is Right for You?

Which Kind of Collaboration Is Right for You? by Gary P. Pisano and Roberto Verganti

Harvard Business Review December 2008

Reprint No: R0812F

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The authors Pisano and Verganti caution that companies need to consider what they call their collaborative architecture- their structure and organizing principles, before jumping into relationships. The product of 20 years of research and consulting, they have developed a relatively simple framework to help senior managers make better decisions about the kinds of collaboration their companies adopt. Its focus is on two basic questions:

  • Given your strategy, how open or closed should your firm’s network of collaborators be?
  • Who should decide which problems the network will tackle and which solutions will be adopted?

The four basic modes of collaboration are:

  • elite circle - a closed and hierarchical network
  • innovation mall – an open and hierarchical network
  • innovation community – an open and flat network
  • consortium – a closed and flat network 


     To determine the mode of collaboration most appropriate for a given innovation initiative, a firm should consider the trade-offs of each, weighing the modes’ advantages against the associated challenges and assessing the organizational capabilities, structure, and assets required to manage those challenges.  “The Four Ways to Collaborate” and exhibit “How to Choose the Best Mode of Collaboration” assists executives in choosing the mode that best suits the firm’s strategy.


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