Last week, I was on the phone with one of my clients who works in the not-for-profit industry. Some of her biggest challenges are working with a restricted budget, communicating to a diverse and geographically dispersed employee base and involving employees in the organisation’s innovation strategy. After sharing her challenges with me she asked: “Can you share with us what your other clients who are facing similar challenges are doing about this?”
The week before, an Australian-based global manufacturing company asked me about how other companies are measuring the return on investment of innovation. And the week before that, we connected a leading brand in the fast-moving consumer goods industry with an organisation in an adjacent industry to hear their experiences of resourcing an effective innovation program.
Sound familiar? It should because these are the challenges faced by the majority of organisations passionate about innovation. All too often, our clients are seeking advice and first-hand experiences from other organisations who are all trying to achieve the same thing – drive innovation in a sustainable, predictable and repeatable way.
What this highlights for me is the growing need for organisations to collaborate to achieve greater-than-before results, for themselves but also for their industry. Collaboration in the context of innovation refers to: “collaborative arrangements with external parties to make contributions to firm productivity” and includes inter-firm collaboration or university-industry collaboration.
I recently referenced some compelling research conducted about the benefits of collaboration – this study of 7000 Australian SME’s found that collaboration on innovation increased annual productivity growth by 4.1 percentage points. Unfortunately, across 2015-16, roughly 86.3 percent of Australia’s innovation-active businesses undertook no collaboration at all.
What we know is that collaboration represents a huge development area for Australian organisations. This is in stark contrast to the world of Silicon Valley. One of my insights from a recent trip was the absolute transparency of ideas and a strong focus on collaboration within the Valley. Allen Blue, co-founder of LinkedIn, told us about the lack of defensive intellectual property within Silicon Valley, stating that “the real competitive advantage comes from effective execution” – that is, the win comes from an organisations ability to scale, as opposed to the greatness of an idea. This results in organisations and people freely sharing ideas in a collaborative, instead of competitive way.
This is something that we too are working on at Inventium. We are currently exploring a partnership with Crowdicity, the idea management platform, that sees us working in a complementary manner to better support the many organisations around Australia driving innovation.
So, what can you do?
- Start small. Think about the individuals in your own personal network within your industry, or in adjacent industries, who you could partner with on specific projects or share challenges and insights with. Or better yet, have a chat with us about joining Inventium’s Intrapreneur Club – a club of the most passionate intrapreneurs in Australia that we have handpicked to actively encourage and facilitate collaboration.
- At an industry level, what are the biggest challenges facing your industry that you could partner with competitors to solve? For example, in Australia’s agriculture industry, one of the biggest challenges is the volatility of commodity prices in stock and grain. In the natural health industry, consumer skepticism is a huge challenge. And in the property industry, housing affordability is a problem on the mind of all Australians. The result? Instead of competing with your competitors for a piece of a pie worth $20, you could instead seek to increase the overall value of the pie to $100, with more pie for everyone.
- Explore research partnerships or university-industry collaborations. Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) offer great opportunities for industry-led
collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. Alternatively, explore partnerships with local universities – for example, global law firm Allens recently partnered with UNSW to create the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation – a research program designed to tackle legal issues surrounding areas such as data, artificial intelligence and privacy.