One of the ways businesses can navigate change or overcome challenges in their market is exploring collaborations with like-minded brand partners. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Six-Point Creative has challenged its own stance on collaborations with peers, and in some cases perceived competitors.

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” -Charles Darwin

I have always been a big believer in collaboration…in theory. After all, I started a marketing agency with two partners, right? But I was also the kid in school who hated group work. I would be the one doing all the work, not because the other kids couldn’t help, but because I was pretty sure that I could do it better on my own. I knew my own capabilities…I didn’t know theirs. Why take the risk?

I’m sure for some kids in my group that was totally fine, but if I got paired with another high achieving control freak, watch out… the battle of wills would begin, and I would usually be in tears by the end of the assignment.

But the last several years of my life have been learning to let go. To allow other people to “yes and” my vision for my company, to collaborate with me on strategy for a client, to use their strengths to balance my weaknesses.

Up until now, though, most of Six-Point’s collaboration has been internal or with trusted vendors. Yes, it was a respectful collaboration, but I was still the leader of the “group work.”

Worst case, I could pick up my poster board and glue sticks and walk home.

Lately, though, I have been kicking off truly exciting collaborations with other experts who also serve “second stage” businesses in different ways… Ruth Lund, a thinker about organizational culture whose scientific approach perfectly complements our approach to branding. Kirsten Modestow, an incredibly bright design thinker who takes my lofty theories and brings them to the minutiae of hyper consistent brand design. AJ VanWallendael and Tamala McBath, with whom I had the honor of presenting on a panel about the overlap of access to capital, talent optimization, and branding. And the list goes on…

And the best part? These are all the high achieving control freaks, but there is no battle of wills. Instead, we are drawing energy from each other in a stressful time. We are building on each other’s ideas, seeing connections and opportunity, and building out new content and programs that are far more rich than either of us could produce alone.

I would definitely encourage you to be thinking about this as a unique time when collaboration is not only more possible, it is an opportunity to prevail in an extremely challenging situation. Do you have “competitors” who are really just competing with you in name only? Or someone who offers a complementary product or service that would allow you to bring exponential value to your customers? Now is the time to go for it.

So this week I just nodded and smiled when my son confidently spouted out random addition equations. “1+1=11!” I know his preschool teacher might see it differently, but from my experience, he is absolutely correct.