Accelerate - December 2015

Connecting for success

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Dr Mary Quin shares the four things that businesses can focus on to build strong business connections and strategic partnerships.

To be successful in business you have to be able to make the right connections and build strong strategic partnerships. Connecting to potential investors, experts, suppliers, dealmakers, channels or markets can be crucial steps in your journey to building a business.

This ability to connect has become increasingly important in the digital age as traditional barriers to connect to new markets, industries and cultures are no longer in play and connecting is becoming increasingly easier and faster.

There has been a distinct shift over the past few years in the world as guarded ‘competition at all costs’ has been replaced with collaboration and cooperation for business survival. The explosion of knowledge and access to information has changed the way innovative companies connect to the latest thinking, talent and resources.

Building good connections and being open to collaborate can be crucial to business and innovation success but it is important to note that it is quality, not quantity that can make the real difference.

In the book 'Get Big Things Done', authors Saj-nicole Joni and Erica Dhawan coin a phrase ‘connectional intelligence’: the ability to combine knowledge, ambition and human capital, forging connections on a global scale that create unprecedented value and meaning.

They advise entrepreneurs to build their connectional intelligence and make meaningful connections by focusing on four things.

Firstly, consciously build connections with people from different backgrounds and different industries. We all have something to teach each other, and the idea that might revolutionise your company’s normal way of operating is probably not going to come from someone who has exactly the same lifestyle, priorities and thought processes as you.

Secondly, they advise business owners to partner with people who have common interests and missions, but different skills. No one person can possess all the expertise and skills to run a business successfully, so think of your strengths and surround yourself with people whose skills complement your own. Breakthroughs can come from the exchange of ideas and from challenging opinions.

Thirdly, they advise that you leverage what you already know. Think of ways to use your known skills and connect them to new fields. They use the example of an IT professional with experience in managing online surveys who, when his sister became very sick, set up a new platform to diagnose rare diseases.

Lastly, think bigger. Broaden your range of potential customers. If your business is successful in one market, why not take it further afield? Connecting to the world, testing your ideas, and setting up networks has never been easier and cheaper.

These ideas really resonated with me because connections are core to how Callaghan Innovation delivers value to New Zealand businesses. In a recent article in Forbes Asia, Callaghan Innovation is singled out by tech entrepreneurs as a supportive entity and the writer sees our wide range of services and connected networks as a core driver of growth in the high tech sector.

Our Global Expert service connects Kiwi businesses to an extensive network of local and international partners and collaborators. Since 2013 it has made more than 700 connections between New Zealand businesses and specialist R&D providers.

Through our Telematics Alliance, Callaghan Innovation and NZTE brought together New Zealand telematics companies to help this industry increase its international competitiveness. This led to a recent merger between two of its members, International Telematics Holdings and Imarda, to form a new company, Coretex: a merger that will boost their scale and accelerate their global expansion (read the full Telematics Alliance story here).

Another exciting project that connected a new technology with an established industry was our launch this year of the C-Prize. This initiative challenged players in the UAV industry to connect to the film industry’s challenges and bring innovative solutions to the table. Reading Eye on the Prize, it is obvious that not only VorTech, who won the C-Prize, are winners – but both our highly rated film industry and our upcoming UAV industry are also winners.

So let’s keep on connecting, collaborating and partnering to grow our expertise, knowledge and talent across the New Zealand innovation system – it is our secret weapon and we should be justifiably proud of it.

Dr Mary Quin, CEO

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Updated: 10 December 2015