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  • Writer's pictureRyan Liddle

Are you a serial collaborator?

I have to admit, I am a serial collaborator. I've said it! It's out there! Breathe, ahhhh.

It is something that I can’t help but do. I have been aware of this problem that I have for many years and in the last few I have thought more about why is it that I am drawn to this approach.

Without a doubt I love team sports. Although I enjoy tennis, I’m more likely to be found on a football field. The opportunity to achieve with others is something that I have always found more rewarding than just doing something by myself. I learn a lot from seeing how others play and approach situations. I also get inspiration and find a lift in my own enthusiasm and ultimately performance from these environments too.

How does this relate to innovation? A core belief that I have is that you have to collaborate in order to innovate. An inventor can quite happily deliver new things to the world working alone, however an innovator needs others to make their ideas come to life. In the new Smart Disruption report released by Optus Business, they have also referred to this belief as core to the overall report (second page of the report - big, bold font!):

“Smart Disruption. Disrupting your own business by better anticipating evolving customer needs and innovating to meet them. Achieved by partnering with organisations of all sizes and stages of maturity to share insights and experience to create mutual value.”

Collaboration though, can scare the pants of some people in the world of commercial business. This idea of working together with other people/organisations in order to reach the best outcome will often conflict with their own commercial intent. A lot of people within organisations are held back on their plight due to the potential loss of ‘value’ when a collaborator takes advantage of those they are partnering with.

It is something that entrepreneurs can’t help but do as they try to find others crazy enough to go on the ride with them and as a mechanism to overcome the sheer lack of hiring power that they endure as every dollar is focused on achieving the longer term goal. Pete McConnell in a recent AFR article summed it up well as he tried to describe his transition from an established organisation to a digital native:

“Cult of collaboration
And there is something refreshing about working with the insanely positive. The workforce becomes a cult of collaboration and co-operation, a professional paradise.”

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The other consideration needs to be on the type of organisations and people that you collaborate with. Innovation is at its easiest when you have many different perspectives looking at the same problem/opportunity. By design, this can be achieved through having people from vastly different background collaborating on an idea. Using their different lenses to see the problem or opportunity from wonderfully different angles. It’s just like counting the number of passes in this clip. Awareness Test.

In the Smart Disruption report, it calls for organisations to be ‘anticipating customer needs through collaboration’:

“Growing engagement opportunities through mobile, social, digital and in-store experiences opens a range of avenues for businesses to co-create with customers, truly delivering against customer wants and needs.”

We should never forget the customer, additionally with new technology we have better ways to listen to our customers. For those brave and bold enough, we now have techniques and examples of how to co-create with customers too. When you add in to your collaboration cohort, partners from your value chain, entrepreneurs in your industry and researchers solving the bigger and longer term problems, you have the ability to deliver end-to-end solutions that will delight your customers and create new innovative markets.

Collaboration across organisational boundaries is not just something for the digital natives that are driving innovation in many markets today, it is for any business that wants to be there, delivering for their customers for years to come, including established organisations. The faster we can get more organisations to take on this design approach and developing solutions in this way, the faster we will see innovation in the market, new value and paradigm shifts in customer satisfaction.

If you want to collaborate with me, just send me a direct message. I will always find some time for those wanting to try.

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