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Posted Jul 28, 2009 at 1:49 PM by Smith Yewell

“Collaborate or Perish" - A new paradigm for success

This phrase, “collaborate or perish”, was uttered earlier this year by Google CEO Eric Schmidt as a visionary call to action. And as we watch rapidly evolving, global economic and social forces align themselves in an extremely disruptive and subsequent “game changing” way, it is precisely this type of new, revolutionary thinking which will position companies for success both during and following the current global recession.

It can be argued that success is most often exclusionary in a winner-take-all paradigm. The Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest” is often quoted, and as we currently read in the papers, a broad brush is used to paint the situation as a divisive battle of Main Street vs. Wall Street. The very foundations of Capitalism are being questioned. Perhaps rightly so, because no system is ever perfect. However, this conventional, narrow notion of success within the context of the next decade’s potential for innovative progress is rapidly becoming outmoded. New circumstances require a new way of thinking.

Collaborative success is a concept driving a new paradigm, and a unique set of technological, economic and social forces have started the dominos falling in a direction which will forever change both the economic and social contract between global networks of people and their cultural, business and social morays worldwide.

Contrary to some current opinions espoused in the press, the “Invisible Hand”, as put forward by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations as the natural guiding force of economic arbitration, is not a dead principle. Indeed, it is very much alive in a new, perhaps even more powerful way. Win-win is no longer a jingoistic business phrase, it is happening every day on the internet in places such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. For it is only now that altruistic production, for the sheer motivation of peer recognition, has been enabled to reach its true potential through the rapidly evolving and ultimate arbitrator, the Internet. Adam Smith certainly never dreamed the Invisible Hand might one day take expression in something we now call the Internet. As Warren Buffet’s mentor, Benjamin Graham once said, “the market is a voting machine in the short-term and a weighing machine in the long-term”. The visions with the most weight will win in the future.

As Microsoft experienced with the achievement of Bill Gates’ vision of “Windows on every desktop”, a common platform generates both enormous success for those directly involved and exponential innovation and productivity for all of those participating. In fact, it was this increase in productivity which the once demigod now target Alan Greenspan argued was the fundamental enabler of economic growth in what he deemed as the “irrational exuberance” of the late 1990s. Boom eventually led to bust, an all too common pattern, but that does not obviate the fact that common platforms, efficient networks and interoperability standards reduce the cost (friction) in a variety of both social and economic networks improving both productivity and quality of life – the ultimate measure of success.

Thus, I suggest that the objective of our company and our industry as a whole should be to improve the “quality” of the entire supply chain. Quality in this case can be applied as a defining principle to all ranges of economic and social output and subsequent satisfaction. People naturally feel good when their output quality is respected and recognized and business entities are routinely rewarded with more business when they exceed quality expectations. The result is more often than not a general increase in the quality of life of the entire supply chain. Both individual careers and entire companies are the beneficiaries.

There is an inherent collaboration which must take place in any supply chain for it to be successful and flourish. However, this does not change the fact that there is a constant struggle to fight the natural forces of entropy or status quo which eat away at the underlying fabric of all supply chains. Walmart is probably the best example of the antithesis of this debilitating factor given their vast network of supply chains are currently second to none in their scale and ability to constantly improve and deliver personalized satisfaction on a global basis where and when their customers demand. How has this been achieved? In simplified terms it has been achieved through unprecedented integration and collaboration between all resources in the supply chain.

Now let us return to Eric Schmidt’s phrase, “collaborate or perish”. In our GlobalSight open source initiative we call it “collaborate to innovate”. In either call to action, both our ability and impetus to collaborate has probably never been greater. There is an opportunity now, should we choose to accept it, to challenge ourselves in brand new ways to work together through innovative technologies and processes such as crowd sourcing, open sourcing and outsourcing. The conventional methods are fading quickly in relevance. Customers are demanding new ideas and aligning themselves with next generation partners in the supply chain.

What does a next generation company look like in our industry? It looks like Welocalize. Our company is at the center of the first open source translation management system our industry has ever seen. We are also leading the way in developing GlobalSight as the “platform” of choice for interoperability standards and connectors for other best-of-breed technologies such as crowd sourcing, machine translation and computer assisted translation. In so doing, we are challenging all constituencies of our industry supply chain: client, vendor, translator, academia and association to come together and leverage our collective knowledge. Now is our chance. Change is manifest. There is a unique alignment of driving circumstances. We are challenging everyone within and without to “collaborate or perish”.

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