We have found two MIT Sloan Management Review articles, in relation to partnering, which you may find useful.

Firstly, Why Too Much Innovation is Death to Innovation (2010).  The authors write "When companies collaborate, low trust is detrimental to innovation.  But so is very high trust.  The optimal level, yielding maximum impact, lies in-between."  Their findings include:

1. Some kinds of conflict between collaborators can be good for innovation performance.

2. While personality conflicts hinder innovation, conflicting opinions about tasks can spur new solutions.

3. Trusting partners are likely to commit the resources needed to implement jointly developed ideas.

Secondly, Defining the Social Network of a Strategic Alliance (2000).  In this older article the authors write that "Paying attention to personal relationships accelerates learning and increases the effectiveness of alliances."  Of interest to the OD community are their findings that:

1. Effective collaboration requires connections at three levels across partnering organisations:

  • Top management to develop broad goals and monitor progress
  • Middle managers to develop plans for joint activities, and
  • Operational personnel, who carry out the day-to-day work of the alliance.

2. Trust, developed through open and prompt communication, frequent interaction, timely exchange of information and accurate feedback on partner's actions to minimise misconceptions and strengthen cooperation.

3. Communication among the boundary=spanning personnel to ensure shared interpretation of goals, common agreement on norms, work roles and the nature of the social relationship.  In turn, as the alliance evolves:

  • Personal relationships increasingly supplement formal role relationships; and
  • An informal psychological contract increasingly substitutes for the formal legal contracts.

Partnering for Results

Recently Trish was discussing partnering intentions with a leader in the public sector. They responded: yes we talk lots about partnering. But I'm experiencing it as having a pleasant enough meeting to talk about how we could work together, and then not a lot happens. I questioned him about how much he and his organisation understood about the process to establish partnering e.g. understanding the strategic goals and intentions of the other organisation, and whether his organisation was clear about their own goals and the role partnering might play in achieving them. I outlined a continuum of possibilities in the partnering process. Soon he was agreeing that there is more to partnering than he'd thought and that it's much easier said than done.

Experience and research tells us that successful partnerships need people who have the mindsets and capability to move organisations into ‘spaces' where no-one else is taking leadership. To achieve results we need partners able and willing to build unexpected relationships, skills to establish mutual benefits, and a new type of leadership to get the real value from the investment of time and energy.

As Peter Senge says in his book The Necessary Revolution (2008) "The imperative to collaborate across boundaries ... has been established. Now we just need to learn how to get better at it, quickly."

Trish Hall is Thought Partners' specialist in partnerships. She works with clients at the critical points in partnership development: exploring and setting foundations; when the going gets tough; or when it is time to review and learn from the process and the partnership. Trish offers workshops and mentoring to build partnering capability through customised sessions or public programmes. View the next public programme

Trish received her accreditation as a partnership broker through The Partnering Initiative, a well-respected international organisation which enables the sharing of practical experience, contributes to cutting-edge knowledge, offers training and advice as well as setting international standards in what constitutes good partnering practice. You can find out more on Since 2004 Trish has been one of the global mentors on this initiative.