Finding opportunities to collaborate and innovate faster

origanius pietverhoeve Sep 30, 2021
lamp constructed from different puzzle pieces

When looking online for tips on collaboration, you find many software tools to support collaboration or information on the importance of collaboration and the skill sets needed. However, each time I see a company setting up a collaboration project, it turns out to be more complex to be successful in the end than they anticipated at the beginning. Some say this is the nature of collaboration and that you have to accept it, but this doesn't need to be the case.

With the proper approach you can set up collaboration with guaranteed results!

Successful collaboration starts with good ideas that help you build the future for your company. Next you need to find the partners, and finally you have to bring them together to build the partnership. In this post I focus on the first part: how to find the opportunities.

Step 1: Start from your mission/vision

All companies have a mission or vision about the future of the company. For some it is more implicit knowledge, others organize exercises with the management team to formalize their mission and vision as part of a typical strategy exercise. The vision expresses what the organization aspires to become in the future. It helps you to define the direction for generating ideas to collaborate.

Step 2: use the Win-Winnovation strategies to generate ideas

  1. Use the power of the blank mind
  2. Think beyond your discipline
  3. See the opportunities in the value chain
  4. Go beyond your value chain
  5. Know and understand your end users
  6. Innovate with your end users
  7. Co-invest in innovation

The third strategy “see the opportunities in the value chain” is linked with a typical management and strategy tool: the 5 forces model by Michael Porter. The model tells us that each company should look at the power of its suppliers, customers, competition, new entrants, and substitutes to build a defensive strategy for the future. Each time one of the 5 forces becomes too strong there is a potential danger for the organization and business strategy should be adjusted accordingly.

While the model was built from a defensive viewpoint it can be used as an inspiration for finding collaboration opportunities as well. Collaboration with direct competitors is not trivial to start with, the other four forces are far easier to start with.

  • Suppliers: can you collaborate with your supplier to create a better production process, improve quality, faster delivery time, etc.?
  • Buyers: do you ask feedback from your customers? Are there customers using your product in a different way that might inspire new features? What about ex-customers? Why did they stop using your solution?
  • Entrants could be future competitors, but what if you focus on the complementary aspects of your solutions. Could you collaborate to define packaged solutions?
  • Substitutes: what can you learn from the substitute? Could you envisage a combination? Could you help each other e.g. through referral approach, a package deal?

Do you want to learn more on building successful collaborations to innovate better and faster? Check out my book Win-Winnovation.

Want to know more on this article or do you have questions? Contact me!

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