When it comes to innovating, collaboration is vital to success. After all, no business has every smart employee, owns every piece of technology or has every great idea.

The world's leading businesses collaborate because they know that to succeed, they must look outward for other skills, services, technologies and opportunities. Why else would Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Coca Cola be prolific collaborators? 

Nevertheless, collaboration is one of the most divisive words in the business vocabulary. Some people enjoy the tête-à- tête that comes with working with others, the diversity of opinions and the opportunities it creates. Others either believe no one can offer them anything, or they’ve experienced a poisonous collaboration and prefer to keep their cards close to their chest and their focus inward.

Collaboration should be a positive experience for all parties and most importantly, for the end users. Whoever you’re collaborating with, the partnership must be win:win and the value at the forefront of even the most preliminary discussion. Each partner should benefit from value, both parties should share the same values, but more importantly value should be created for the end user.

Tips to consider before entering a collaboration:

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  • Start with why
    It can be easy to get side-tracked by the promise of money or other resources, so be certain to establish why the collaboration aligns with your purpose and how your end users benefit as a result. Aligning and re-aligning (as necessary) each collaboration with your purpose, will reduce the possibility of drifting into the wrong partnerships or getting steered in the wrong the direction. 
     
  • Measure the wins
    Write a list of wins for you and your collaborator. Measure how equal they are and keep this in mind throughout the early stages.
  • Give meaning to the ratio
    If it favours you 80:20, the other party are unlikely to put more than 20% into the collaboration, and if they do contribute more, the potential for the relationship to go sour is greater. If the balance goes the other way, consider how much of a contribution you are going to make and how you’ll feel when the other partner benefits more.

  • Do goals align?
    Don't earmark your participation and resources for activities that align with your goals but not theirs. Beware of the reverse!

  • Collaborate with people and organisations who share similar values. 
    It is easier to teach skills than it is to teach teamwork and values. In the short term, you may benefit from another company’s skills and resources, but if your culture and values are in opposition, public perception of your brand could be impacted as well as your general company wellbeing.

  • Keep the end user at the forefront.
    While the collaboration needs to be win:win for each partner, it will only succeed if it adds value to the end user. Just like any other innovation activity, collaboration needs to follow a user-centric process (At G2 Innovation, we advocate Design Thinking). So be sure to assess how the collaboration will meet your users’ unmet needs, how they will benefit from the partnership and what user challenges it is likely to solve.

  • Does your partner know your end user?
    Consider how well your partner knows and understands your end users and whether educating them is a valuable use of your time. 

If, after considering these things, you realise the benefits to the end user are negligible, or worse, the end user is not going to benefit at all, walk away. 

The key word to remember is ‘value’. Stay true to your values, ensure all partners give and receive value, and the goal is always to add value to the end user.

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