Tim Carter
Tim Carter
What are collaboration models and how are they useful?

Collaboration models


In theory collaboration is easy:

  1. identify stakeholders with joint goals
  2. execute collectively with common incentives

In practice it gets messy quickly:

  • relationships are weak and indirect
  • barriers are discoverd
  • incentives do not align

A collaboration model is a conceptual framework to align collaborative thinking with collaborative action.

Because collaborations differ, collaboration models are principles based.

They are not prescriptive beyond those principles, so they can be applied to multiple situations.

Effective collaboration models detail core requirements sufficiently, and align stakeholders to them consistently.

Your collaboration model should be defined by your principles and boundries of activity.

They balance collaborator risks & rewards using incentives & controls tied to a central shared objective.

They make checking, confirming and communicating your purpose easy and consistent.

They ensure your preparations and practice are guided so all stakeholders combine successfully.

They apply to informal arrangements and those created by legal agreement.

They cover all topics where collaboration adds value: building revenue, adding reach, exploiting intellectual property and other tactical or long term initiatives.

They do this by:

  1. requiring you to define every key element of the collaboration, creating certainty.
  2. composing those elements into a unified concept, creating comprehensiveness.
  3. providing a narrative structure for communicating with collaborators and other stakeholders, creating consistency.

Changes are also simpler to execute because you can easily distinguish the new path and its benefits from the previous model.


Collaboration models apply to formal and informal collaborations that are either valuable or important to you.

For example, I originally developed the Collaboration Map to negotiate the complex multi-stakeholder ecosystems demanded by Symbian, Android and Peek Vision.

But I have also applied it to much simpler projects in order to place them into a wider context and ensure even the simplest bilateral collaboration will serve that larger goal.

This has included enterprise sales and developer engagement on SaaS products, nonprofits seeking funders and project implementations, and start-ups developing their vision and values.

In fact collaboration models are useful as analysis, communication and planning tools for a wide variety of activities, including:

  • founding & fundraising
    • coordinating exec teams & boards to a common narrative
    • co-founder arrangements on vision & mission
    • conveying value and reward vs risk to investors, boards & management
  • product development
    • IP licensing (inbound & outbound)
    • developing new capabilities & joint propositions
    • co-research & development
  • revenue & go to market planning & execution
    • sales (direct, indirect, enterprise)
    • marketing (awareness, reach)
    • partnerships (leadgen, distribution, reselling)
    • business development (new territories, new products)
  • corporate development
    • scoping acquisitions & divestments
    • planning transformations & reorganisations
    • executing turnarounds
  • dispute resolution
    • finding common ground
    • exploring and creating solutions
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