Opening up our innovation to stay relevant

Staying RelevantOur whole understanding of innovation is changing; there are numerous shifts occurring. We are opening up our thinking in where and with whom, to collaborate.

We are evaluating and changing our existing focus from closed (internal orientation) into ones that are having a far more open stance. We are searching for more collaborative innovation (external orientation) combining external partners into more ‘collective thinking’.

The shifts taking place are offering us the promise of “extra acceleration” that is needed to improve our innovation performances from concept to market delivery. Or, we hope it is!

Collaborative innovation is also leading us to higher chances of achieving greater impact and success, as nearly all novel ideas lay are mostly outside the organization’s domain of understanding. We need to always bring the knowledge inside and build from it.

As we increasingly include the customer and their more exacting needs within our understanding, these multiple collaborations and dialogues are building this better internal understanding to align our innovation with specific opportunity, relevancy and need.

There also seems that many organizations are presently searching for their new business models’ of innovation delivery or architecture.

Equally, we are constantly moving from managing in linear innovation processes and making these more adaptive, constantly looping back when new information or data is being discovered, increasing this knowledge and insight in highly dynamic, constantly evolving and informing ways.

I’d say we are presently in a state of flux on adjusting to all of what this might mean, in customer and market offerings, as well as internally adapting our structures to the new forms required in these business model changes.

Adjusting to many different forms of external relationships

We are forming external relationships in many different ways as this increased diversity does matter to each organization for building different competitive positions in their innovation offerings.

We are creating the potential to deliver innovative products and services through new business models that would not have been enabled by only having the one organization attempting it. Collaborations are definitely adding value into the innovation equation.

Also we are seeing complexity rising significantly. The search for finding greater value is shifting even further, increasingly forming around innovation ecosystems, loose federations of vested interest, forming and dispersing when the job is complete.

Our innovation exploration will become far more evolutionary and requires a completely different way to think and manage these ‘relationship contract’s’ that are forming around a given concept of platform engagements.

As we tap into all the expertise up and down the value chain we will become far more aware and will need to explore all the depth in thinking, contributing and making available through extending our connections in deeper and broader ways. Knowing how to adjust, accommodate and shift our thinking requires us to become more agile, finding new ways of connecting and working.

Do you notice how the single industry focus is seemingly in decline?

Opportunities exist everywhere. We need to look well beyond our own industry to evaluate different perspectives, seek out the potential of different concepts that can be adapted to our own industry. Many companies are exploring the value of becoming involved in a business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries to build new communities that have the capacity to transform existing environments.

As an example, let’s take the “battle of mobile devices” has now become a war of building the better ecosystem. It is not one single product it is chasing increasing share of minds, preferences, changing habits and tastes and to achieve this ‘paradigm’ shift the search is on for forming the ecosystem that can deliver this ‘transformation’. This is coming through apps, technology, different value propositions built into a platform of offerings that combine through your mobile device.

We are seeking out relationships, not just within given industry sectors but into partnerships that allow us to deliver different offerings, that would not be possible without broader collaborations.  The relationship between NGOs and the private sector used to be combative rather than collaborative. However, that is rapidly changing

Take for instance the Oxfam and Unilever partnership have been working together since 2010 to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Also the External Alliances department of the Nestlé Research Center(NRC) manages external collaborations and partnerships to complement the internal Nestlé R&D pipeline and innovation process.Currently, NRC participates in more than 200 external scientific collaborations worldwide.

Then Unilever have created  The Unilever Foundry, a new platform that unites and expands the company’s existing efforts to work with startups. The Foundry will serve as Unilever’s flagship, global tech collaboration and investment program, providing an accessible mechanism for startups to interact with them in their “pitch to pilot” approach.

Offering more one stop, connecting places to ‘go about your business’

Interesting examples are how Autodesk and Adobe are building the environment for others to join, build and participate within. The focus is on rapid prototyping in collaborative environments. They are offering one-stop shops where technology, 3D printing, software design, their engineer services can be combined to work on your ideas, all ‘housed’ in one location.

For start-ups, small and medium sized organizations are given even more chances to bring their concepts to life and finding the opportunity to compete with larger organizations through this approach. They are helping you to bring your prototypes to life and create real functional end-use parts with additive manufacturing, production processes and software applications.

For instance Autodesk facilities at Pier 9, in San Francisco is a place for design and fabrication, it includes: a cutting edge digital fabrication lab, a woodworking shop, a metalworking shop, a 3D printing lab, laser cutting and printing capabilities, an electronics workshop, a commercial test kitchen, and an industrial sewing center as well as smaller specialty project areas.

Stepping out is stepping up

Today there is growing realization that thinking ecosystems can allow us to have a new framing of possibilities and offer us different mind-sets that tap into different and diverse relationships, partnerships, alliances and collaborations. This was unthinkable until recently, without the enablers to make these connections through technology and more open platforms where you can come together and collaborate.

The increasing value of participating in ecosystems or collaborative environments allows for large and small organizations to come together, share, exchange, create, scale and serve markets in ways that were not thought of before as we did not have the ‘ways and means’ of how technology connects us in so many different ways to new possibilities.

We are having the increased ability to interact and co-create in increasingly sophisticated and novel ways opens up new opportunities. These ecosystems form a bond of shared interest, of recognition and purpose which quickly becomes established as the new ‘commons’ in sharing and contributing.

Opening up to being supported should accelerate your innovation

Any opening up should be clearly designed to accelerate new innovation but as you build these external relationships or participate in these innovation centers, it can often equally ‘complicate’ the original intention by this different layering in of complexity.

Keeping it initially simple, exploring and exploiting, building and adding increasing value as you grow, enables an evolving value proposition that keeps you keen to extend beyond your borders from the increasing returns and more distinctive offerings you can provide.

We do need to open up, learn from others, look for and engage in far more collaborative ways across more diverse groups than ever before, each vested in a better outcome and then build this ‘acquired’ knowledge into your thinking and offerings for delivering better outcomes.

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