During the first few months of the pandemic, we were all comforted by the words, “We are all in the together.” It became a kind of comforting mantra, suggesting that we stood together as equals as we faced this new danger. During those early, dark days, we clung to that idea, telling ourselves that, somehow, we would meet the challenges and get through—together.
It was around that same time that I started thinking and writing about partnerships, something that I have continued to enjoy doing ever since. Especially during difficult times, there is something invigorating about exploring all the possibilities that good, productive partnerships can offer. Knowing that someone has your proverbial back, and that you have theirs, is an empowering thought. Life is much better when you work side by side with people moving toward a common goal; when you silo yourself off from others, you quickly begin to feel that everyone you come up against is a competitor or enemy of some kind.
Partnerships played a major role in getting us through the pandemic. The most obvious example I can think of is the story of how those first critical vaccines were developed. The walls built between the pharmaceutical companies suddenly came down for the sake of common good. By sharing research, drug companies successfully developed effective vaccines in record time, much faster than if they had retained their normal competitive individuality and made the search for a vaccine a zero-sum game. The COVID vaccine is a testament to how much can be accomplished when the end goal is prioritized above all else.
We’ve seen that same dynamic play out across history, where humans worked together for a common cause and succeeded.
The race to the moon is another example. Hundreds of companies came together, inspired by President Kennedy’s vision of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. When President Kennedy made that statement in 1962, we were not even close to being able to land on the moon. But by working together cooperatively and in partnership, hundreds of thousands of people in thousands of companies came together to achieve this goal with five months to spare, all the while accelerating the innovative technologies that would become the foundation for the computer age that followed. The moon landing was accomplished through that “together we can do anything” attitude that has become the trademark of American ingenuity and accomplishment.
The same thing happened during World War II. Admittedly, the U.S. was reticent to join the war at first, but once in, we were all in. Through the power of partnerships, the Allied powers literally saved the world. Car companies stopped making cars to make tanks and jeeps and other military equipment. Women took over factory positions, and everyone rationed rubber and sugar and other commodities. All this effort paid off in the end, once again exemplifying the statement, “We are all in this together.”
We now stand on the threshold of a new age of partnership. As we head into 2023, let’s take a minute to reflect on how we can further develop cooperative partnerships with our customers, our suppliers, and our competitors.
Two new powerful tools are available to help us create more productive partnerships:
The first is remote work, which allows us to connect and effectively work with many more people than before. Now that we are no longer bound by geographical barriers, we can hire from a much broader and more diverse pool of candidates. We can locate the best engineers in the country—if not the world—and have them work for us not only as cooperative partners, but employees as well.
The second is the blockchain. This open system allows us to work in cooperation not only with other companies, but also our customers’ designers and engineers to help them develop their products more rapidly and efficiently than ever before. We can even share information with our vendors through the blockchain. With this system of open communication, we can work as a team with our vendors, customers, and even competitors, to develop better products and bring them to market faster than ever.
Nurtured by these new tools, the collaborative spirit that has allowed us to overcome so many dangers will surely open yet more paths to future innovation.