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Collaborative Innovation: The Group Project You Don’t Want to Miss

Collaborative Innovation: The Group Project You Don’t Want to Miss

Remember group projects in school? Yeah, I thought so. I didn’t like them either. There was always that one person who didn’t contribute, maybe a pushy group leader, and worst of all, meetings outside of regularly-scheduled class time. Most people are adamant they’d have chosen to write a paper while listening to their own music, or perhaps get a root canal, than complete a group project.

But hear me out for a minute. Fast forward from those school days. What if group work meant developing new and better business solutions with higher value and greater customer success? When it comes to innovation, it pays to work with a group—but the right group, of course. And that’s where collaborative innovation comes in.

Collaborative innovation means players from inside and outside of your organization work together to develop new products, services, processes, or business solutions. For example, picture a young, new start-up partnering with a large, established company. It’s easy to imagine how they could leverage one another’s strengths, experience, and resources, right? And here’s the best part: this type of approach is known for creating growth for businesses and increased value for customers. How’s that for incentive to do a little group work?

Collaborative Innovation Drives growth

With so much complexity and constant market shifts in today’s business world, companies often find they can’t accomplish everything they need to do alone. That’s why the right innovation partners are so important. According to a collaboration study by Cisco, a successful collaboration allows companies to act faster, work smarter, and improve value—driving economic growth.

But how exactly does collaborative innovation drive this growth? The WEF Collaboration Innovation Report says there are two ways. The first is by introducing new or improved products or services that tap into a demand in the market. Companies are able to focus these developments and improvements to tap into those demands, creating additional value for their firms as well as their customers. The second is by increasing the productivity of the companies creating these innovations.

Collaborative Innovation Creates More Value

Like we always say at CoLabs: we’re after real solutions to real problems. And that starts with a solid understanding of the problems themselves. Collaboration allows different players the opportunity to leverage perspectives—keeping the customer, and their issues and needs, top of mind.

After all, in a crowded marketplace, you’ve got to stand out—whether your product is on a shelf or on a screen in the customer’s hand. But even the most innovative products and services won’t work if they don’t put customers’ needs and desires first. (Anyone remember Crystal Pepsi? I do, but just barely!)

These different perspectives are easy to find in a true collaboration. Take that example of a young company partnering with a more established firm. The young company may bring fresh ideas about emerging markets. They may be closer to users and customers who represent growth-oriented prospects, and they can be more flexible than a larger, more established company. That means these younger businesses can develop, test, and launch novel products and services faster than a larger, more risk-averse company.

Meanwhile, a larger company has more than their fair share of advantages, too. They often possess the resources, networks, experience, and even regulatory knowledge a newer, younger business may not have established. They’re likely more able to commercialize any new products or services, and they have the means to scale a successful new endeavor.

And remember—that’s just one example. There are so many pairings that can lead to a successful collaboration.

Start with a Great Partnership

If you think you’re ready to hit the gas on collaborative innovation, keep in mind these best practices for finding a partnership.

  1. Use your networks to find the right partner. Without a solid foundation, your outcomes will never meet their potential. Spend as much time up front as necessary to identify potential partners with complementary knowledge and resources.
  2. Prepare your team members for collaboration. A readiness to build trust and relate to your partner is vital to innovation. Team members should be mindful not to try to assimilate outside partners, but to appreciate and even leverage differences. Over time, they’ll begin to build trust through transparency, perhaps even sharing competitive insight and information.
  3. Determine the goals of the collaboration early and re-examine them often. A clear vision will help define how the partners will work together—for example, team structure or meeting cadence. Once the goals are outlined, remember to re-visit them periodically, and be flexible to change if milestones shift.

Collaborative Innovation is Bringing Group Work Back

Yep, I said it—group work isn’t all bad. It just requires some up-front work to establish an effective partnership, and may involve a bit of uncertainty and evolution of the partnership over time.

But the rewards are many. As you find the partnerships that work for your business, you’re likely to drive growth, increase productivity, and create even more value for your customers over time. You may even uncover new possibilities for your team and your business, or find the resources to reach a part of the market you couldn’t tap into.

Are you excited yet? Go forth and collaborate.

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