Howdy Partner – No man is an island
A spate of recent partnerships causes us to reflect on the benefit of working together
No man is an island
John Donne’s most famous line from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions was written 400 years ago, but its enduring fame suggests there’s something that resonates just as much now as it ever did. (OK, you could argue it’s actually his second-most famous line from the poem, the first being ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’ – but that’s not exactly the vibe we’re going for in this month’s blog. We’re aiming for a little more upbeat, a little less… morbid).
At Bridge, we’re perhaps well placed to understand the concept of ‘no man is an island’ – not least because there are more than 50,000 of them covering the Norwegian coast. Undoubtedly beautiful, but anybody who chooses to make a home there quickly understands the difficulties associated with going it alone. Whilst there are a few ‘unusual’ individuals who have chosen to brave island life independently, this tends to be the exception, not the norm. Self-sufficiency is generally not about rejecting society, but about embracing community and finding ways to share common resources and knowledge, to the advantage of everybody.
So how does this translate to the business world?
Well, the thing is, the founding members of Bridge – and the team they’ve built around them – are by and large highly social people by nature (even our engineers, and if that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what does). So collaboration isn’t merely a cost/benefit spreadsheet analysis for us. Instead, it’s more of natural paradigm of operation: an instinct. It sometimes feels like we ‘fall’ into our business partnerships, rather than engaging in some kind of calculated assessment of utility.
That’s not to say we aren’t considered in our approach to business partnerships. It’s just that we keep ourselves open to serendipity and felicity: chance meetings, unexpected conversations – when these things are combined with an open mind, then all sorts of unexpected outcomes can be realized. How else can you explain our enduring and exciting collaboration with the great Aksel Kolstad?
Business partnership is a two way street
A key concern for us is the idea of mutual benefit. It can be all too easy to embrace the rhetoric of ‘collaboration’ without actually engaging in the mindset change that needs to go with it; it is vital to reject the often hardwired tendency towards exploitative interaction that seeks more gain than it offers input.
For us, the mindset shift is not difficult because it’s based on two key elements: logic and passion. The passion element comes from the fact that we genuinely believe in what we’re doing, and we want the industry to progress as a whole (which is why we’ve been banging the IP drum for so long). And the logic comes from realizing that to make that kind of progress, we all do better together. Two heads are better than one, and all that jazz.
Don’t get us wrong. We’ve got a competitive streak in us a mile wide (you should have seen the plans we had for an IBC shuffleboard competition, you can guarantee we weren’t going to take any prisoners). Competition absolutely still holds a place in the business world; it keeps us sharp, focused and motivated.
But the idea that there’s a hard and fast dichotomy between competition and collaboration is, to us, simply wrong. The business world is a delicate ecosystem of interactions, and black and white thinking won’t get anybody anywhere. Competition does not preclude collaboration.
The logistical benefits of partnership
Yeah, it’s easy to be all warm and fuzzy about the idea of working together. But what are the tangible benefits?
Well, to understand that, it’s probably best to break down the kinds of collaborations we engage in, and explain the benefits they bring.
‘Little ol’ us, sitting in our sleek, stylish but slight offices on the river Akerselva in Oslo. How are we going to bring our incredible powerhouse of monitoring to you in Brasil, or Japan, or the UAE? Sure, we love the business class lounge at Gardermoen Airport, but we’d rather not spend all our time on planes. And yes, we like to think of ourselves as pretty switched on, but we all already speak at least three languages (Philippe Genar is winning, with six under his belt), and Taiwanese seems pretty tough, so we’d rather not have to dust off our language dictionaries again just to be able to hold a business meeting.
The solution? Business partners. Business partners drastically expand geographical reach in an incredibly resource efficient way. But more than this, they allow us to provide the level of care and attention to our customers that we think is just as vital as the technological innovation of our products. We want to have a global reach, but we also want to be able to talk with each of our customers intimately, understanding their culture, context and concerns. Realistically, these two objectives aren’t compatible… unless we harness the knowledge and expertise of business partners to act as a bridge (no pun intended…) between us.
And that’s why so much of what we do aims to recognize, reward and enrich our business partners. Because we are so grateful for what they allow us to achieve. Whether it’s a host of treats and celebrations at IBC or through our annual Bridge awards, or providing support and recognition through our weekly Bridge Show, we aim to always put them front and center.
The partnerships take different forms; from direct and individual sales, to forming part of the wider solution offered by a systems integrator, right through to direct integration within compatible products. And now seems like a perfect opportunity to wave and say ‘hi’ to our latest partners Densitron, who will be integrating Bridge monitoring solutions into their Intelligent Display System.
Alliances and memberships
The benefits associated with being a member of a society, committee or alliance are less directly tangible, but just as valuable. Whilst business partners are a more personal way of connecting with our clients, alliances help us to develop a wider relationship with the industry as a whole. Rather than chasing rabbit holes and developing tunnel vision in our endeavours, alliances help us to maintain a wider overview of developments, and understand our place within them.
Again, the key here is bi-directionality and mutual respect. We aim to shape the alliances we are part of just as much as we are shaped by them. Membership is not – or at least should not be – a passive undertaking, it’s active. This is why we aim to contribute to alliances as much as we can; either by offering our knowledge and expertise in panels, talks and roundtables, or by sponsoring events where members can come together to meet and discuss ideas.
Alliances work best – we think – when the level of mutual respect is balanced with just a little bit of friction. We don’t want to be part of a group where everybody is too busy congratulating each other and patting each other on the back for being clever to actually have new ideas. We want dialogue, debate, discourse. Friction and disagreement – when undertaken in an environment of respect – are the keys to reexamining preconceptions, challenging conventional thought, and ‘thinking outside the box’ (yeah, we just said that unironically. Sorry). Call us old fashioned (as in, Socrates and the Ancient Greeks old fashioned), but we think the dialectic model sits at the heart of progress.
Because as part of the IP revolution, we are both responsible for the direction it takes, but profoundly affected by it to. So it makes sense we’d want to have a hand in shaping it.
Alliances that truly mean ‘working together’
But whilst this abstracted and nebulous process of thinking is hugely beneficial in helping our strategy development, there are some alliances that we are party to which serve a more immediate, business-level benefit – especially from the point of view of potential clients. These allow us to work within large eco-systems of IP/Broadcast products, thereby allowing us to act as an established, effective puzzle piece, rather than a renegade domino.
For instance, just this month we’ve been pleased to announce our membership of the Grass Valley alliance. In Grass Valley’s own words, their Technology Alliance delivers improved purchasing confidence and selection for customers. The certification program gives broadcasters and media organizations access to solutions that are interoperable with a range of Grass Valley workflow components and platforms. By making use of Alliance members, customers can be sure that deployment will be fast and straightforward. Solutions from certified GVTA members will be tested and configured to provide a level of certainty that typically doesn’t exist in the market today.
In this way then, whilst our conceptual alliances allow us to tackle the ‘uncertain’ questions of the industry’s future, our practical alliances (such as that of Grass Valley) allow us to provide a dimension of certainty and security for customers, delivering efficiency and reliability through a focus on ensuring interoperability with other industry leading products and workflow components.
So returning to our original point: if perhaps businesses are islands, then there’s no doubt it’s better to be a Norwegian one – part of a beautiful archipelago of similar islands working together and trading resources, rather than a desolate, isolated atoll stuck out way in the middle of the Pacific. But then, perhaps we’re a little biased…