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"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford

So you've read the first two articles on collaborative innovation, you're completely sold on its merits and how it all fits together, you've chosen models and you're ready to rock and roll.

But wait! There's more!

You've still got to sell the idea to the rest of your company and you've got to have a plan in place to manage the process of strategic innovation.

Bringing Collaborative Innovation Home (And Selling It)

You may be gung-ho about your new collaborative innovation initiative. But what happens when you drop it on your team? If you don't prepare them, you could face a mutiny. Change is never, ever easy and telling your team that you're tapping into the so-called Global Brain to improve their ideas and work can be a little tricky (or YOU are a bit wacky!).

Here's how you can pull it off.

When it comes to managing strategic innovation, you've got to first change the way the company thinks about the concept of collaborative innovation. Start educating the group on the value of outside and new ideas, and show them clearly how adding new "brains" to the team will end up making their own ideas better.

Next, you've got to get the rest of the leadership team to buy in to the idea that you may have to share some the company's proprietary knowledge in order to achieve real results. Remind them that others will be sharing their own proprietary knowledge with you, and if necessary, haul out examples like Salesforce, where competitors share new ideas for apps on the platform each and every day without destroying their respective companies.

Once you overcome initial fears and resistance, you can begin to evaluate your own innovation space and choose your partners. They may be customers, vendors, ancillary product producers, support partners, etc. Choose wisely based upon your needs and goals. Identify the gaps you see in your own organization that hinder innovation and pick partners who will close those gaps.

The Roles Of The Innovation Team

In the theater they say, "There are no small parts." Every actor on the stage, whether a lead or a chorus member, plays an important role in creating the finished product. And in a strategic innovation network, each stakeholder has an important role to play.

First, there are architects who set the vision for the innovation, help spur the ideas that drive innovation and oversee the process.

Adaptors are members of the group who bring highly specialized knowledge to the table. They may provide the infrastructure required, or they may offer support throughout the process.

Finally, there are agents who often act as the mediators of the group. They might step in to facilitate communication, the dissemination of new information, or they may be the ones who broker the technology needed for the project.

Getting Everyone To Play Nicely

It's great when each contributor knows their role, but maintaining order can always be a little tricky in any group - especially a group that creates. People can be married to their own ideas, defensive of those ideas, and they may not always communicate that well. To keep everything organized, the team must have a set of systems in place that facilitate forward motion. When it comes to managing strategic innovation, every group needs:

  1. Network Governance - Everyone should adhere to a set of behaviors no matter who they are, at what level they contribute, or what leadership position.
  2. Knowledge Management - There must be a process in place to generate knowledge, codify that knowledge, and utilize it effectively.
  3. Intellectual Property Rights Management - Who owns the rights to the product, service, idea, or initiative? How will those rights be shared? Always make sure that the players know and agree to IP rights management up front, as they can have significant legal ramifications.

Collaborative innovation can take your company to new heights. You may emerge as a market leader, you may compete in markets you've never touched before, or you may end up building a lucrative strategic partnership. Heck, you may even find yourself one day merging with or purchasing one of your collaborator companies. The positive results are virtually endless - but only if you prepare your team and plan properly. With a goal and a framework in mind, you can master collaborative innovation.


Larry Hart

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