Making collaborative innovation effective

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Long-lasting pressure on sales growth and margins has resulted in companies embracing innovation. Realizing that traditional approaches fall short, many firms have developed open and collaborative innovation initiatives and partnerships to stay ahead of the competition, but often with mixed results. In the full article from which this abstract is drawn, we explain how effective use of collaborative innovation can be improved with a well-defined strategy and better controls.

Collaborative innovation within the right strategic context

Many companies innovate in an uncoordinated way and within a context that is too broad or not well-defined. What companies need is a focused innovation effort, resulting in innovation activities that more easily enhance both each other and the actual innovations that are adopted by the business.

Be sure that you understand what it is that your company wants to achieve before you define how innovation can contribute.

This is where strategy comes into the equation. What we would argue is that collaboration is only a successful method of innovation if it is done within the right strategic context. Two ground principles apply here:

  • Innovation should always be embedded within the company’s (business) strategy
  • A business strategy must be translated into an innovation strategy that defines the ambition, goals, methods and selection criteria for (collaborative) innovation

How to organize to optimize the management of collaborative innovation

Collaborative innovation differs significantly from regular innovation. It is much more unpredictable, dynamic and complex (i.e., involving various participants), and often uses new technologies and partnerships. However, these characteristics also bring with them fresh approaches for the way that the innovation process is managed.

We see two important elements that can help improve control over the innovation process and should always be considered when collaborating with others:

  1. Choose the right collaboration tooling and use it appropriately
  2. Establish a well-structured approach for working with collaboration partners and differentiate this based on the innovation domain or the type of innovation partner

Building tomorrow’s business via collaborative innovation

We believe that collaborative innovation has huge potential, but only when some prerequisites are met. Innovation managers all over the world are challenged to make the right (design) decisions when setting up collaborative innovation. The full article from which this summary is drawn defines several elements and actions that can help companies involved or wanting to be involved in collaborative innovation to be more successful in making those right decisions. Key is that you start with the business strategy in mind; be sure that you understand what it is that your company wants to achieve before you define how innovation can contribute. And be sure that the innovation strategy is clear on some specific, important aspects.

The complete article was written by:

  • Dr. Aart Willem Saly
    Director, Advisory Services — Strategy, EY, Belgium and Netherlands
  • Ir. Jan J. Visser
    Manager, Advisory Services — Strategy, EY, Belgium and Netherlands

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