Not a day goes by that you don't hear, or receive requests, to collaborate. This is quite common and as you might imagine, we get asked quite frequently, what is collaboration, or more specifically - what is your brand of collaboration? This is a fair question. Collaboration is a term widely used to simply mean ‘working together', but let’s peel back the layers and look at intentional and facilitated collaboration.
The marketplace and the people who work and operate inside of it are living through a period of unprecedented change, a globalized world connecting billions of potential customers and partners. This requires leaders to constantly produce fresh, new innovations in order to build enterprise value. Much of this change is being driven by the evolutions in structures for career and work that have been completely redesigned and reconstituted since the computer was brought into existence 40 years ago. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is alive and well and we all work and compete in this environment whether we realize it or not.
The State Of Innovation Management
Innovation today is where business strategy was in the 1990’s. In that moment there was a trend largely driven by retired military leaders entering the marketplace and sharing their experiences from the front lines of battle. Decades later ‘strategy’ as a business practice is widespread and ubiquitous. It’s common to hear CEO’s discussing corporate strategy, market strategy, operational strategy or any number of other strategies or strategic objectives. Let’s remember that 10-20 years ago this was not the case and it took time for business professionals to first orient, then adapt and adopt to using strategy as a framework.
According to Cris Beswick, a Member of the Innovators CoLab Board of Advisors, behind closed doors the acknowledgement that the innovation investment promise hasn’t paid off for the vast majority of corporates is now a regular boardroom agenda item. This report is taken directly from the corporates that currently have a funded, structured innovation function, to say nothing of the majority of corporates (~75% of Fortune 500) that have never built an innovation practice. The case can easily be made that the innovation skillset is rare, and the successful, repeat innovators are scarce.
Approximately 15% of Fortune 500 corporations have a formally structured and funded innovation function. The encouraging news is this figure is growing yet the challenge remains making innovation a function that produces reliable, repeatable and impactful results. On this score, we’re truly in the Dark Ages.
We’ve heard countless horror stories of innovation efforts gone awry and they go something like this – CEO declares innovation as a strategic imperative and she picks the most senior person to lead the effort (usually from R&D, technology or marketing). This leader takes over the innovation practice with no real skills to do so and they spend hundreds of thousands, millions or tens of millions setting up an innovation practice and/or team. Then no results are produced, the innovation function is killed, losses pile up and egg is splattered widely. Everyone moves on thinking innovation is bad for business and those innovation leaders scramble to find a new home in the organization, or they leave taking with them valuable institutional knowledge. As Mr. Beswick explains, we need to move beyond innovation theater and get down to what works.
Our Innovation Collaboration
Enter Innovators CoLab. We are a collaboration of C-suite and senior leaders that come together to get and share the resources needed to produce steady streams of fresh, new innovations. These are the senior most innovation leaders in medium to large-sized organizations and include the roles of Chief Innovation Officer, VP Innovation, Director / Manager of Innovation. The majority of the market doesn’t structure innovation functions using Innovation Management Best Practices and therefore no organized practice is in place, so we extend invitations to leaders in R&D, Technology, Marketing and in some cases work directly with the Board of Directors.
The heart of our effort is providing connectivity to resources our members need. In addition to peer connectivity, our members have access to world-class help to build their innovation teams and increase enterprise value. We connect our members with vendors, best practices, startups, global collaborators, corporates, joint-venture partners, capital – anything they need to make innovation a thriving, impactful practice inside their organization. Through providing our members with a wide array of highly valuable resources we’re redefining collaboration in a way that suits the realities of our rapidly changing, global, computer-based marketplace.
Membership consists of the actions of joining our collaboration, participating, contributing to and building identities amongst innovation peers. Our membership exists for the purpose of enabling and helping innovation teams design and create new offers (products, services, business models, etc.) they need to produce accomplishments that build enterprise value. When our members come together, and we help one another solve big innovation challenges and build enterprise value, they are able to fulfill their business missions.
The Practicing of Innovation
Use it or lose it ... Ask a doctor, attorney or artist what happens when they stop practicing and most will tell you they see a decline in their skills within about three days. After a month of not practicing, their skills decline to the point where significant investment is required to regain lost practices. Our collaboration offers opportunities to keep those innovation skills sharp so as to deliver impactful results that increase enterprise value and shape the future.
Restricting competitors from participating in our collaboration provides a safe space for members to openly share their innovation and growth challenges and for them to get the resources they need. This allows them to achieve growth goals, produce continual streams of new innovations and grow enterprise value. Specifically, this opens up possibilities to find the help they need including prospective customers, allies, fellow innovation peers, advisors, teachers, employees, colleagues and friends.
Our members think, learn and design in an environment to expand their autonomies and produce accomplishments that are valued by their employers, employees, investors and customers.