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‘Collaboration Is Not a Natural Phenomenon’: Mapping a TE-AM Road to Successful Alliances, Part One

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Managing partnerships with complex multi-partner and ecosystem networks is hard enough, but venturing forth into new types of cross-industry partnerships is near-on impossible without the tools to get you there, according to Lynda McDermott, CA-AM, president of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international management consulting firm which specializes in leadership, team and business development for the Fortune 500, midsized companies, and professional services firms.

“Study after study has shown that collaboration is not a natural phenomenon. It’s more normal to be competitive or to work within your team (tribe),” McDermott asserted during her pre-conference workshop, “Next Gen Alliance Management: Moving your Organization to Ecosystem Performance Excellence,” one of the sessions on opening day of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA.

The interactive workshop—incorporating a business exercise, assessment exercises, small group discussions and case studies—was a highly abbreviated version of the customized all-day course McDermott offers, ASAP TE-AM Training, to alliance professionals.

The pre-conference workshop featured an exercise involving colored blocks distributed to groups at each table. The task was to build a tower with the fewest blocks possible. The goal was to have the tower still standing at the end of the session. As blocks tumbled, comments were heard bouncing from table to table.  “Look, we need to make this stable,” one group said to the sound of collapsing blocks. “Don’t touch the table. Don’t breathe!” another group urged.

“Ok. It’s obvious, we need to create stabilizers,” one attendee said as he grabbed two sturdy water glasses. He placed the mouth side down on one and propped the other glass, right-side up, on top, which created a wide-mouthed platform for the blocks.

“Some materials are being used that are not approved,” McDermott interjected, glancing down at the hour-glass formation “stabilizer.”

Once the time was called and the experiment ended, McDermott asked attendees what they thought about their results. “We created a solid foundation which stabilized the blocks,” the architecturally oriented attendee said. Another pointed out that some might regard the use of water glass stabilizers as cheating. “We spent time planning [to determine] whether it was effective,” another team chimed in.

“So,” McDermott asked, “what was most effective? Each team had a set of 16 blocks, plus a set of assumptions. So, how many teams shared their insights or directives with another team?” There was a long pause as she looked around the room. “Oh, so, no one shared? But this workshop is on creating and sustaining alliances. Yet, you did not talk with the other team at your table?” she asked.

“I’ve conducted other workshops where teams did talk with one another, but it never occurred to them that they should collaborate. I’ve also worked with teams that claimed they had a highly collaborative culture, yet the result was the same. They did not collaborate.”

McDermott explained that the key principle at ASAP is collaboration. The certification ASAP offers, CA-AM certification, involves learning a common language as well as a set of processes and tools. But to build an alliance team, that alliance needs structure. Why? Because collaboration is not natural!” she stated emphatically.

Learn more about McDermott’s session and its purpose in Part Two of ASAP Media’s coverage of the ASAP TE-AM pre-conference workshop.

Tags:  ASAP TE-AM Training  collaboration  collaborative  Lynda McDermott 

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ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Highlights Exceptional Contributions: Part 2—Building Better Company Culture Through Collaboration

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The following is a continuation from Part 1 of the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A Panel session, which took place last March at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” held at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California. Highlighted on the podium for their exceptional company contributions were Celine Schillinger of Sanofi Pasteur; Chris Haskell of Bayer; Maria Olson of NetApp; and Kevin Hickey of BeyondTrust. The session was moderated by John W. DeWitt, CEO of JW DeWitt Business Communications and publisher and editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine, who plied the panel in this with questions on how to build better company culture and frameworks through partnering.

Kevin, when did that [collaboration] light bulb go off for you, or did you always get it? And as an chief executive, how do you drive your company to be more collaborative and successful in partnering?

Kevin: BeyondTrust is made up of nine different businesses. When we came in [to manage the newly combined companies], they had their own system. Our objective was to build the culture on the values we have, and determine what the benefits of the values are and the outcomes. … We tried to get everyone singing out of the same hymnals. We needed structural change, but it really was about culture, and it worked its way down. When we went forward, it was not just a “rah-rah” kick off. It’s was all about communications and driving it throughout the organization.

Maria: The executive team sets the culture of the organization. When I started at HP, it was very collaborative and had a consensus orientation. When I fast forward to some other companies I’ve been to, and it was command and control. The top-level team does set the tone. “Selective collaborations” is what I call it.

You also talked a lot about sales, Kevin. In highly competitive sales environments, there are big challenges. How do you change thought there?

Kevin: You need open communications and clear expectations with everyone in the organization. I don’t care what position you are in the company, if you don’t know how your job affects the company, it needs to start there. You have to be very collaborative, but at some point in time you have to say, “The train is leaving.” Smart people want to get to a decision and move on. Smart people say, if we make a mistake, we will own up to it, adjust, and move forward.

Celine: It’s the paradoxical junction between collaboration and performance via the carrot and stick. We put people in boxes, and it’s crazy. At the same time, research shows people are motived by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So how do we try to evolve our company’s performance management system? Because of this desire for control, it infiltrates every function other than HR. If we can’t change that, how can we inspire people? How can we cope with the way organizations manage people and also focus attention on something elsethe excitement, the journey, etcetera. It’s not black and white, it’s complicated.

What are some of the strategies you deal with in terms of the need for speed, the need to have deliberation, to not be reactive. How can you balance that today?

Kevin: Sometimes you have to go slower to go faster. You want process. I do find that as a company, you’ll see the people who are doing the rework all the time. To me, you have to guide people to slow down and think about what they are trying to accomplish. All the mistakes I made when I went into partnering in the channel alliance business, it was a quick fix. It really takes thoughtful collaborating up front with people who have done it to get 85 percent of a plan agreed to. It will save you a ton of time on the back end.

For Part 1 in this series, please go here: . ASAP Media’s coverage of the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A continues in Part 3.

Tags:  BeyondTrust  Celine Schillinger  collaborations  collaborative  communications  Kevin Hickey  Maria Olson  NetApp  Sanofi Pasteur  strategies 

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Vice President Joe Biden Talks Up Collaboration with the New ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I was flipping through Internet news when I landed on a fascinating Today Show interview by NBC News Reporter Tom Brokaw with outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who were discussing their support for the new $1 billion cancer “moonshot” initiative. Fascinating, because it telescoped a radical change from the not-so-distant “war on cancer” to an evolving collaborative approach.

 The interview was additionally interesting because of the impact cancer has had on the lives of Brokow, who is fighting his own battle, and the Bidens, who lost their son to brain cancer. Joe Biden has “an added degree of passion because of what happened to Beau,” Brokaw told NBC News Reporter Lester Holt in a preview. “He’s turned his grief into energy,” and what’s different about this cancer-fighting project is that we now have more information from the human genome project, Brokaw explained.

What Biden is trying to do is “not tip over the tables, … but to get everybody at the table.” It’s not about the destination, Brokaw said, but “all the people that you bring into the process. [Biden] used John F. Kennedy as an example: We’re going to go to the moon, but to get there they needed to get the best engineers, the best scientists, and the best builders—at the same table the oncologists, the researchers, the big pharma people to turn out the drugs, so there is a common core so everybody is operating off the same page.”

In a separate interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, Brokaw clarified the difference between the “war on cancer” and the emerging collaborative moonshot approach: “The war on cancer was against cancer in a kind of generic way. This moonshot is about the many parts of cancer and the research that is going on in many parts. And the big, big challenge is to drop the silos so that everybody is working toward one goal."

Sound familiar? Now let’s cut to the actual interview, which clarified the problem and highlighted the emerging solution: “The immunotherapists did not work with the geneticists. The geneticists were not working with the oncologists,” explained Biden. “Unlike any other time in the treatment of cancer, all these various disciplines are [now] working together. Now we can do a thousand-billion calculations per second.”

Biden lamented the high price of drugs, much as ASAP 2016 BioPharma Conference Keynote Speaker Dr. Sam Nussbaum said, as covered in this blog post:

‘Dr. Sam’ Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time

“There’s one particular drug that works very well that came out in 2002. It cost something like $27 [or} $28,000 a year. It’s now $130,000 a year,” Biden pointed out. “Flat screen TV’s started off at $2,000 a screen; now you can buy the same thing for $300. The more people use it, the more the price goes down. Ironically, the more people have used this particular drug, the price has gone up.”

To watch the Brokaw interviews and see how cancer research is evolving to a more collaborative approach, click here.

More Brokaw Interviews

**Image credit Today Show.

Tags:  2016 BioPharma Conference  alliance management  Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative  Collaborative  Dr. Sam Nussbaum  human genome project  Joe Biden  Tom Brokaw  US Healthcare System 

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Five Secrets to Enabling Highly Collaborative Ecosystems

Posted By Martin Echavarria, Author of ‘Enabling Collaboration – Achieving Success Through Strategic Alliance, Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Updated: Saturday, May 21, 2016

There is much talk about business ecosystems as the newest models for collective collaboration across industry, geography and culture.  These ecosystems are considered important not only because value chains and supply chains are outsourced and fragmented, but also due to the speed in which markets change and new competitors literally pop-up. Today, key partners once operating at arm’s length around short-term contracts need to be closer and more responsive than ever, while also connecting with others actors once considered tertiary. 

In addition, ecosystem models are being conceived to take advantage of new opportunities being created by broader interconnections. Interestingly ecosystem development is now not only reactionary to market change, but decidedly proactive. For example, who would have ever thought that a tech company such as Google would produce cars and perhaps compete with the largest of automakers, all the while cooperating with several of them on developing self-driving technology? 

So here we are. Companies today need consistency, reliability, commitment and capability to react quickly in a system of greater connectedness, volatility and competition, while simultaneously looking for more sustainability, resilience and greater permanence. 

Luckily, today, we not only have the wherewithal to envision business ecosystems, but also the technical and operational capabilities to blue-print, develop and enable their emergence. However, if not well-conceived, companies involved in making them a reality, particularly firms in the ‘center’ of the ecosystem may not access the benefits that a truly well designed ecosystem can bring. 

At the end of the day, the devil is not only in the structural details, but also in the fundamental social contracts between the partners who participate in the ecosystem and choose to contribute collaboratively to its emergence. 

These tried and true secrets, stemming from my recent book ‘Enabling Collaboration’ will help to build the kind of ecosystem that can self-correct and self-sustain in times of market change and dynamism that supports all actors’ success. 

Build the Social Contracts as you build the Structure of the Ecosystem: this means sitting with the key ecosystem stakeholders, those that perhaps currently are part of the ‘supply chain and value chain’ and those that may lie right outside it. For example, customers, the public sector and NGO’s may make sense. In structured Partnership Innovation Sessions, establish the ‘basic operating principles’ of the ecosystem, founded on the affiliation and membership goals of the groups working through the details. 

Create the Emotional Connection of Real People Co-creating Together: building a sustainable ecosystem does not happen in a vacuum but through the people who contribute to its design. To do this, bring diverse stakeholders who are an integral and vested part of the ecosystem to build the social fabric and the structural elements. Invest the time and effort for these relationships to be woven together in a productive and authentic fashion. 

Use Principles of Ecosystem Sustainability: 

Fair Distribution of Resources: Almost all ecological ecosystems use sunlight as their energy resource, in our case, sunlight is attune to money, and the fair and sustainable distribution of such value is fundamental to ecosystem design. 

Establish Formal and informal Feedback Loops: All ecosystems have cycles of waste and replenishment of nutrients. Dealing with waste and other environmental concerns are part and parcel of ecosystem design. In addition, this includes creating formal and informal feedback-loops architected into the ecosystem where all actors can communicate and contribute to improve and better its operability. 

Design Economic Resilience into the Ecosystem: resilience can happen serendipitously through the basic interconnections between the actors, or consciously through insurance products or savings accounts. The ecosystem actors can draw upon these resources during challenging times, or for investments in new shared technologies and capabilities. 

Include Diverse Actors: All ecosystems depend on bio-diversity. For business ecosystems this includes ensuring that all touchpoints of an ecosystem have some way to contribute to and get benefit from being part of the ecosystem. Benefit in this case, can be monetary, social or informational.             

Leverage Technology but Don’t use it as a Replacement for Human Interaction, leveraging technology is a critical component for designing ecosystems and enabling participant stakeholder-partners to adapt to just-in-time learning, connect and communicate directly with all ecosystem participants. However, technology and systems do not replace people talking with and connecting together and coming to terms on challenges the ecosystem faces.  This way it can up-level to better designs and improved overall functioning. 

Seek out Third Party Objective Partnership Facilitator, Collaborative Leadership, regardless of size, from the smallest of groups to the largest of complex multi-stakeholder ecosystems requires the help of a skilled objective third party. This third party, as a person or team of conveners, guides groups to see relational blind spots between partnering organizations. These unseen elements if not proactively addressed during the development phase, ultimately leak to the detriment of the system. It happens time and time again; groups don’t express grievances or concerns openly and still cooperate, ultimately unresolved issues cause greater problems down the line. Partners may try to win-over on the system, or worse, use unresolved issues as justification for inaction, lack of true collaborative participation and ownership. 

What from this post could you take action on right now to improve or begin building your ecosystem?
What examples of ecosystem design can you share with the community that readers could learn from? 

Guest ASAP blogger Martin Echavarria is the Author of Enabling CollaborationAchieving Success Through Strategic Alliances and Partnerships, a foundational and practical work that provides an innovative alliance business process and collaboration methodology for success in the field. He is also the recipient of the Alliance for Social Responsibility and a management consulting supporting organizations and groups to build strategic business relationships that last. / Coherence Inc.


Tags:  business ecosystems  collaborative  Enabling Collaboration – Achieving Success Through  leveraging technology  Martin Echavarria  Partnership Innovation  stakeholders 

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ASAP’s New “Quick Takes” Explore Impact of IoT and Ecosystem Partnering—and Proves to Be a Highly Successful Format for Engaging 2016 Summit Participants

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson & John DeWitt, Friday, March 18, 2016

Some forms of communication are more effective than others. The “TED Talks” speaking format, for example, has drawn significant numbers of interested viewers for over 30 years. That is why ASAP decided to introduce its new “ASAP Quick Takes,” patterned after the “TED Talks,” unveiling them for the first time at the 2015 ASAP Biopharma Conference, and again, at the 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

The talks were a big hit and garnered lots of positive feedback. Such short talks are successful for several reasons: The message is sometimes simple, imaginative, and an easy take-away; the time limit of about 20 minutes forces speakers to distill the main points, which more-readily captivates the audience. 

Take, for example, John Bell’s “Quick Takes” talk where the marketing executive for strategy development at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health advised a collaborative approach: “Play in the sandbox. We are sitting on massive scale of opportunity to work in open innovation,” he said. “The toys must be shared. You can’t have it all your way, and you must behave yourself,” he added, while outlining the rules for success in today’s partnering environment. “Today, it’s a whole playground! Amusement parks, even. You can do many things [with] so many kids to play with. Which one would you choose, and why would they play with you?” he asked provocatively, prompting the audience to join him in the creative box for 20 minutes. 

Bell’s invitation was a terrific precursor to the talk by Larry Walsh, CEO of The 2112 Group and a well-known journalist, who asked the audience to join him in a virtual chess game. Strategy is a key component of success, he said. “Strategy is about making choices. If you fail to make choices, you often put yourself at risk,” he continued. “Lots of businesses say they make choices, but they are consumed by revenue generation and don’t discriminate between good and bad decisions. They also fail to anticipate. This is where surveying the landscape equates with chess. If you don’t survey the landscape and understand your competition, you cannot anticipate what the opposition will do,” he noted. Among other things, “you need to lay traps and position assets to create advantages.” 

Think ahead and read the board, he advised. Not only what you are going to do, but what your opponent is going to do. Chess helps you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actionsto problem-solve in an uncertain environment.” 

Another “Quick Talks” speaker, Anne Nelson of IBM Watson, threw out an elaborate blueprint for success for IoT multi-partnering. IBM’s new business unit, formed in 2014, has seen astronomical growthsome 500 new partners in just two years. The IBM Watson Group provides over 30 services that partners can write applications against or leverage to improve applications. “What did you tweet over the last two weeks?” she asked the audience to recall. “Watson can provide personality insights from those tweets” and generate different coupons for discounts depending on that profile. “We are opening the platform to partners on data as well,” she replied. ‘This platform is the only one in the industry today with this many apps.” 

What’s the value for partners in alliances with IBM in the Watson ecosystem? “We’re the number one B2B brand, Watson has 70 percent unaided awareness—so brand is going gangbusters in terms of value to partners,” said Nelson, who was recruited to IBM Watson Group from IBM’s direct sales organization in January of 2015. “We have over 40,000 IBM sellers who touch millions of accounts,” she noted. 

For a longer-term view of success, Marcus Wilson, president and co-founder of Anthem’s real-world research subsidiary, HealthCore, Inc., spoke about his 20-plus years building healthcare partnerships. The key component is building trust, he said. His experience included pioneered the emergence of physician and patient education and clinical decision support services based upon real-world data. Wilson’s experience exemplifies the “kind of creativity and entrepreneur skill increasingly required when we are reinventing what we are doing all the time,” said Jan Twombly, CSAP, ASAP chairman of programming, and president of The Rhythm of Business, who prefaced the talks as moderator. 

As an entrepreneur and “intrapreneur,” Wilson shared several formative personal experiences, starting as a young clinical pharmacist doing his residency at a Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Delaware health center. “Influence is everything,” Wilson emphasized. “I had no power to prescribeI would have to walk into physicians’ offices and convince them that it was their idea to treat the way they should. I had to influence the healthcare center to offer all these new services—which eventually became incredible force for us.” Similarly, he said, “We met with FDA 10 years ago about real-world evidence. They said, that’s great, but this stuff is voodoo science.” Thanks to influence—reinforced by lots of data—“it’s becoming much more mainstream today.” 

You can read individual blog posts about these “Quick Takes” talks on our website at

Tags:  alliances  Ann Nelson  ASAP Quick Takes  assets  B2B brand  collaborative  healthcare partnerships  Heathcore Inc.  IBM Watson  IoT  John Bell  Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health  Larry Walsh  Marcus Wilson  multi-partnering  open innovation  partnering environment  problem solve  strategy  TED Talks  The 2112 Group 

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