The fixed mindset and why collaboration is not about a deal

A business collaboration like alliances, partnerships, joint ventures and even teamwork, is an effort where two or more parties work together to achieve a goal. Preferably, that is a goal which one of the parties can not achieve alone. The reason for working together can be that it will be faster, cheaper or that it can lead to better results.

Creating such a collaboration takes time and effort and when the contract is signed, the work is only just really starting. In contrary to mergers or acquisitions, this is not the moment you can consolidate revenues into your results. The collaboration only just started and there are no results yet. A new collaboration is in many ways comparable to a startup. The idea is there, both parties put funding into the effort, either in resources or money, and now they need to start to make it real.

When I describe it like this, it sounds fairly logical. You need to start working together before you can see the results.

Unfortunately, there are executives who view business collaborations as a deal. They focus on signing the contract and look for the best conditions for their company in the contract. Some even assign the responsibility for the collaboration contract into the purchasing department. These executives expect immediate results to flow once the contract has been signed.

How can that happen?

I’ve noticed that there are mainly two reasons behind this way of thinking.

The first one is the simplest, and dumbest, reason: the executive simply does not understand collaboration! It might sound harsh, but unfortunately, it happens all too often. These are the ones that made their career “I” focussed instead of “we” focussed. They built it on deals and short-term results and most likely jump from quarter to quarter.

The second reason is that many of the deal focussed alliances or joint ventures are created as a second choice. The form in which the company decided to grow (collaborate) was not a form that was chosen by design, but because of the fact that the partner was not for sale. Thus the process was reverted to working together in collaboration with the other company, instead of acquiring them. The starting point, with the intention to acquire the company, would have resulted in instant gratification by being able to consolidate the acquired company’s results into the own results. Even though a new strategy is chosen, the focus is still very much on these instant results.

In both cases, the executives follow a fixed mindset way of thinking. In her book “Mindset, The new psychology of success” *, Carol Dweck describes the differences of a fixed versus a growth mindset. She supports this with examples of many great leaders of the growth mindset that created lasting results versus leaders with a fixed mindset that created only results as long as they were at the helm of the company. “We” focused thinking in a growth mindset, versus “I” focused thinking in the fixed mindset.

What Carol describes for the growth mindset resonates very much with the kind of thinking needed for successful collaborative efforts. Collaboration is not a deal with instant results; collaboration needs to deliver lasting results. Results that live on long after the leader has moved on.


Check out some other articles