Innovating with partners is key when you accept that the smartest people are working outside your organization and that there are over 20 million people* working in R&D globally. The speed of technology development is faster than ever, innovations that once took years now happen in weeks, not only in the digital world, but in the physical world too. But creating value from these new opportunities and bringing them to life at a rapid pace is no easy task. It requires solving many challenges and getting the right experts collaborating with shared purpose.

Typically, organizations have two main interfaces with the outside world: sales and procurement. But in most cases organizations do not have an interface for innovation. In this post I would like to make the case for creating this deliberate interface and what the critical factors for success are to create value from innovating with partners. If a deliberate innovation interface is in place, it is often an extension of the R&D team.

Creating an innovation interface starts with an innovation strategy that integrates open innovation into the portfolio of innovation activities. Important is to define the purpose of the innovation interface; which type of innovation and what kind of partnering is envisioned and what kind of results are desirable? Will you collaborate on strategic, core technology parts of your products / solutions or more on the lesser risk peripheral parts?  Are you looking for ‘components’ to integrate into your product platforms or for new product platforms entirely? What is the type of partner you are interested in and how will you manage the collaboration? At ESTI, we use our Ecosystem Game to help the innovation teams of organizations experience the dynamic of innovating with partners. Learning to walk in someone else’s shoes creates awareness of the need for reciprocity and better prepared teams.

Any collaboration with the outside world represents in reality three collaborations, an internal collaboration inside your company with alignment of all relevant functions, the internal collaboration inside the partners company and of course the actual collaboration with your partner. Using our Ecosystem Game as a basis, we created an extension of the game where also internal alignment is simulated.

Organizations do not work with organizations but rather people work with people. It is crucial to have the right people on the interface representing the organization. Innovating with partners is a capability that requires capability development.  One way of developing your organization is through our innovating with partners practitioner program. This involves learning about good practices from other industries and organizations but also learning with and from your community of practitioners accelerates organizational learning.

Does your organization already have a deliberate innovation interface? How do you measure success? How do you create value? We are always happy to learn from your experience also and how we can help organizations accelerate innovation.


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rick wielens

Rick Wielens