In business as in life, our worlds are populated by what my friend John Ruhlin likes to describe as "givers and takers". The givers are primarily motivated to help others who matter to them. The takers are inwardly focused and while not necessarily malicious, aren't especially concerned with being considerate towards others. The most mutually satisfying and enduring relationships are those where both parties give as well as take. This balance of give and take constitutes what Stephen Covey refers to as our "emotional bank account" with others. This is a very simple concept to grasp in our personal relationships. We can also relate this to our business relationships. In the field of external innovation, representatives whose companies have technology needs are desirous of receiving quality submissions. However, many seem content to manage relationships with prospective external providers (other than perhaps trusted suppliers within their "inner circle") as strictly transactional. They appear to make no particular effort to, nor show any real interest in getting to know external parties. I have established and built solid ties with quite a few corporate representatives over a period of years. We regularly exchange professional courtesies, because we care about each other and wish to demonstrate that we each respect and value our relationship. For instance, my contact may on occasion introduce me to someone with whom he have a relationship whom could benefit me and or my business. Or, she may make a particular effort to ensure that a technical opportunity that I may submit is being given adequate consideration. In turn, I may make him aware of relevant technical opportunities based on my understanding of his business needs. Or, I may share with her articles and information about topics of merit. Or, I may assist my colleague with professional networking if he/she happens to be between situations. So, going back to my original question: for companies that promote their technical needs, should I or anyone respond to these? I think the answer will likely depend upon how strongly and positively an individual feels about the company (and the people) involved. After all, there is often a small chance of being awarded a prize for winning a technical challenge. Even with an attractive award being offered, this relatively modest prospect alone may or may not be sufficiently motivating in order for them to want to respond to a need solicitation. While I can't speak for others, in order for me to respond, the given company needs to matter to me. Otherwise, why should I bother? Partnerships are defined by the nature and quality of the interactions between the parties. Reciprocal give and take support mutually satisfying and enduring relationships. Relationships where only one party consistently gives will routinely fail. Something for each of us to consider anytime we either want or need something when dealing with others, as individuals...or as a crowd.
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