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Whether they’re colleagues within your organization, outsourced or remote talent, customers and clients, or subject experts you’re connecting with, the answer is the same: ownership.
To buy into a project, collaborators need to feel a sense of ownership over the project’s execution and outcomes. But creating a sense of ownership can be hard enough on-site, within a close group. How can we achieve it in a distributed setting, with people we may never meet in person?
1. Ask for ideas, advice or help
Companies routinely ask customers for help and ideas to develop or name products, improve services, and more. Asking colleagues and contacts for their advice will help you to identify those who have experience in similar settings, and have a passion for that type of project.
Using a public forum like social or professional networks to ask a question like, “Have you had this problem?” is frequently the speediest way to find a current solution to technical and other conundrums.
Once they’ve provided their advice, most contributors will be interested in seeing the results of their input. They may also be more inclined to advocate on your behalf, perhaps to secure the assistance of third parties.
2. Invite and reward feedback
Inviting feedback — on ideas, prototypes, and trials — is particularly good for gaining buy-in from customers and suppliers, as well as respected peers.
It may not get a would-be project contributor to the point where they’re willing to commit to your project, but it can make your contacts more amenable to providing insight or advice periodically during development. Reward or recognize the feedback publicly to garner an even stronger sense of involvement, and encourage further contributions.
3. Reveal the process
Making the more innovating, or intriguing aspects of your project publicly available — for instance, through interviews, profiling on social media, or your team blog — can pique the interest of the types of collaborators you want to work with.
If they can see an opportunity to make a valuable contribution to your project, prospective collaborators may contact you primed to get involved. The only hitch is that unless your project is really innovative, you may struggle to achieve impact with this tactic.
4. Make others part of the journey
With this technique, you make the most of others’ desire to build their reputations and demonstrate their experience by inviting them to join you on the project “journey.” You might ask customers to vote on product names, photograph the team at work (or play), and generally open up your project so that peers, customers, clients and others feel they’re part of it.
Generating interest in this way can really help you to build ownership among potential and current contributors. It also provides opportunities to cross-promote or reference those who do contribute.
5. Show yourself
You’ll likely have trouble soliciting buy-in from others if you struggle to communicate that you yourself — and your team members — have already bought into the project.
Whether it’s through social media, an intranet or Yammer, your blog, or the media, make sure your communications illuminate your team’s investments — both personal and professional — in the project. Be as genuine and candid about the project as you can. Would-be contributors will appreciate your clarity, and will be more likely to want to help you out.
Finding collaborators — be they potential employees, or consultant subject experts — can be a challenge, but these five techniques can make the job easier, more natural, and more enjoyable.