As more smart cities emerge, embracing technology and learning from the insights that big data offers, we will likely see a new business strategy emerge–geo-collaboration. When we think of cities now, we typically envision businesses, systems, and people operating among one another with almost no connection or collaboration. Now, imagine what will happen once cities become more connected and smart? Once local companies realize the value they could create together through interconnectivity, the possibilities are virtually endless.
Cities as Circuit Boards
Close your eyes and picture a modern city, viewed from above. It looks a bit like a circuit board, doesn’t it? The only difference, however, is that all the wires and sensors on a circuit board connect and interact; each point in a city’s figurative circuitry is independent and disconnected from any potential to generate business value.
The perfect next step in the advancement of the modern city is to connect these metaphorical sensors in its circuitry, taking advantage of the tools big data and the internet offer to increase productivity and, ultimately, the value that comes with being part of a major city. Again, the circuitry is already in place. It’s up to us to connect the wires and have all those systems and businesses start talking to each other.
Synergy vs. Competition
Think, for a moment, about a strip mall. Strip malls tend be home to several different types of businesses, all situated in the same convenient location for customers. You might have a shipping company, a fast food restaurant, and a clothing boutique all sharing space‚ and—ideally—all attracting customers that will also provide their neighbors with business. These businesses don’t compete for customers; rather, they work together in one spot to offer the same customers different products and services. Strip mall businesses operate in an atmosphere of synergy rather than competition, and they serve as a scale model of the benefits cities can gain by tapping into their own synergistic potential.
Geo-Collaboration Opens Up Possibilities
As we see with the strip mall example, turning your potential competitor into an ally creates more value for both parties. In the 21st century, we are seeing a shift in the economy’s demands, from a set of skills based around knowledge of your industry to one more centered on empathy and relationship-building. As the world becomes ever more complex, no one individual—or even one business—can do all the work alone. Geo-collaboration allows business to leverage each other’s strengths to grow together as a symbiotic network within a city. When organizations work together, they are collective benefits for all.
From Silos to Networking
What’s the first step to setting up a more collaborative business environment? It is breaking down the specialized silos that have long been a staple in many business models. When different businesses, or even different departments within the same organization, become so highly specialized that they’re no longer speaking the same language, communication–and thus, productivity–breaks down. By breaking down these silos and making sure employees throughout a business and executives across an industry understand what the others are doing, we can replace specialization with networking, opening up new avenues for collaboration and profitability.
The New Economy of Collaboration
How, specifically, can collaborating with other enterprises benefit not only your organization but an entire city or region? There are already plenty of examples of places where this kind of geo-collaboration is taking place. In the new smart city, leaders from across all different sectors–public and private enterprises, philanthropic organizations, and non-profits–can leverage their collective influence and mutual interests to bring about change and increase their city’s business value. It’s the new economy of collaboration, and in my opinion, it’s exciting.
Tapping into Collaborative Opportunities
Thinking of your competitors as future collaborators does require a mindset shift, however, it is one that will help businesses to survive and thrive in the smart cities of tomorrow. It’s happening already in small ways as individual enterprises are finding value in shared work spaces, for example.
The organizations that don’t get on board and stick with an old-school “us vs. them” game plan will miss out on the forward-thinking partnerships and innovative ideas that will surely power the rest of the smart city. Exposing your company to geo-collaboration opportunities early and often will help set the stage for smart city success for not just you, but your industry.
This piece originally published on Forbes.
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