One can put a thousand to flight but two can put ten thousand.  There is power in productive partnerships.  We can simply accomplish exponentially more with others than we can individually.  But what makes partnerships successful?

In the October 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine, some of the best partnerships in business are profiled.  Specifically, the issue looks at the relationship between executives and the creative leaders in their organization.  Whether you lead a church, sports team, business, non-profit, or family, these lessons will make you a better leader.

The following are 10 Practices Of Successful Partnerships:

  1. Successful Partnerships Trust Each Other – Trust is the glue which holds relationships together.  Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts says of Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey, “I trusted him.”
  2. Successful Partnerships Are Optimistic – Bailey goes on to add, “We’re both glass-half-full kind of people.  Optimistic.  Positive.  Can do.”
  3. Successful Partnerships Solve Problems – Great partnerships provide solutions.  Nike CEO Mark Parker says, “(Nike cofounder) Bill Bowerman had an innate curiosity and an obsessive fixation on problem solving.  That obsession takes place in every part of the company.”
  4. Successful Partnerships Improve Each OtherPepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was immediately impressed with Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini.  She said, “I discovered that if I was at a certain level of thinking, Mauro was way ahead of me.  I realized he could pull the organization to a place we should have been in the first place.”
  5. Successful Partnerships Encourage Mistakes – Let me explain.  Procini says, “It’s important to have a culture that doesn’t punish you if you make, eventually, a mistake.  I always joke, saying, ‘What scientists call experiments, marketers call failures or mistakes.”
  6. Successful Partnerships Have Healthy ConflictJawbone CEO Josain Rahman and Fuseproject CEO Yves Behar often engage in healthy conflict to solve problems and make designs better.    Rahman says, “It was important for us that we were sweating that detail for experience.  We weren’t doing it because it was fun.  It’s not fun.  I mean, it’s fun when you get to a great outcome, but it’s work.”
  7. Successful Partnerships Over-Communicate – People are down on what they are not up on.  Libby Wadle, President of J. Crew Brand, says that when dealing with Jenna Lyons, President and Executive  Creative Director, and her team, it is important to “inform everyone.”
  8. Successful Partnerships Continually Try New Things – This is similar to encouraging mistakes.  Janette Sadik-Khan, Commission of New York City, works with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to continually attempt to improve the city’s design.  Sadik-Khan says, “One of the benefits of being able to try things quickly is if it doesn’t work, fine, put it back.  No harm.  No foul.”
  9. Successful Partnerships Continually Adapt – Leaders know they never truly arrive.  Marcus Weskamp, Head of Design for Flipboard, says, “Needs (of customers) change.  I have never seen a product that has been finished…As we better understand users, we need to adapt.”
  10. Successful Partnerships Recognize Opportunity – There is a difference between sensing opportunity and seizing it.  Opportunity is often disguised as an overwhelming problem or need.  Joe Gebbia, Chief Product Officer of Airbnb, says, “Brian (CEO Chesky) and I started Airbnb by solving a problem through design.  We couldn’t afford the rent, so we opened up our home for guests to stay with us.”


  • Successful Partnerships Are InspirationalPinterest Cofounder Evan Sharp says of people like CEO and Cofounder Ben Silbermann, “It starts with people.  There’s nothing more inspirational to engineers than working alongside world-class designers, and vice versa.”

Give yourself a grade.  How many of this list of 10 (make that 11) Practices Of Successful Partnerships do you have?  Based upon your score, what are some appropriate next steps you need to take?


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