Collaborative Advantage needs to exist, in order for the extra work that collaborating takes to be worth it! My colleague Lynn Wetenhall puts it like this, in training and capacity building we've developed for the Environment Agency:
"Collaborative advantage is the outcomes or additional benefits that we can achieve only by working with others."
Know when to collaborate...
When contemplating collaborating, you need to make at least an initial cost-benefit judgement and this relies on understanding the potential collaborative advantage. Chris Huxham in Creating Collaborative Advantage waxes rather lyrical:
“Collaborative advantage will be achieved when something unusually creative is produced – perhaps an objective is met – that no organization could have produced on its own and when each organization, through the collaboration, is able to achieve its own objectives better than it could alone.”
But it’s even better than that!
Huxham goes on:
“In some cases, it should also be possible to achieve some higher-level … objectives for society as a whole rather than just for the participating organizations.”
So collaborative advantage is that truly sweet spot, when not only do you meet goals of your own that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise, you can also make things better for people and the planet. Definitely sustainable development territory.
...and when not to
There’s another side to the collaborative advantage coin.
If the potential collaborative advantage is not high enough, or you can achieve your goals just as well working alone, then it may be that collaboration is not the best approach.