Inter-organizational collaboration refers to the relational processes that emerge, when two or more legally independent organizations engage together to deal with their interdependencies regarding a certain problem domain. Today’s world is interconnected, so are technologies, knowledge, skills and abilities. New organizational forms, such as open innovation networks, strategic alliances, public–private partnerships, and collaborations between companies and academia and non-university research centers have seen the light of day as a consequence.
So inter-organizational collaboration is essential nowadays but far from simple: different organizations have their own interests, perspectives, identities, they vary in size, culture, mission, values and strategic goals. Further the involved human beings are different individual personalities, have often different education, cultural backgrounds and roles, sometimes speak different languages which opens a vast area of related sociological and psychological issues.
Further, the problems that are dealt with in such collaborations are often very complex, maybe even wicked.
So, besides the development of the work-related processes of collaborations (e.g., finding a common big picture and common goals, creation of work-packages and deliverables, trust and distrust) such collaborations need to deal with topics such as open communication, group and intergroup processes, the inclusion of different stakeholders, leadership, change and conflict management (the social and organizational psychological and sociological area). Last but not least such collaborations also need an organisational and legal framework in order to function properly. Rules need to be established, clear concepts regarding the outputs and intellectual property rights, the rights of publishing and exploitation need to be defined.
Even if this seems too complex to deal with and therefore hinders some organisations to move towards such collaborations, the benefits regarding innovativeness, disruptiveness, gaining new and additional knowledge and create new possibilities are usually much higher, so that interorganisational collaboration has become an important success factor od successful organisations in the 21st century.