What does collaboration mean to you? For some the words collaboration and teamwork are fairly interchangeable; I do this, you do that, together we get the job done. For others collaboration is a far deeper process, sharing knowledge and ideas, bouncing inspiration from one to another until the creative whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s an important distinction to make, particularly if you are looking to build a culture of innovation. Within such a culture whilst teamwork gets things done, collaboration creates real solutions and shapes the future. More than that, when it comes to innovation then you could well be looking to collaborate not only with people in your organisation but also with customers, with suppliers, strategic partners, subject matter experts and even competitors.
This idea of sharing knowledge is something which is only too well understood by organisations which are already well on their innovation journey. Take the Tata group for example. This worldwide conglomerate took the decision some 10 years ago to foster innovation and collaboration across group companies. The result is a rolling series of innovations from across the group. In fact, according to an article in The Economic Times of India, the top 60 innovations in this year alone are likely to touch the lives of 35 million people over a five-year period as well as delivering an estimated financial benefit in excess of $1b per year.
Even though the Tata innovation programme is well advanced, the group believes that more can be done, in particular in the field of collaboration. In the same report the chairman of the Tata Group Innovation Forum was quoted as saying “If only Tatas knew what the Tatas knew” adding that the group is looking to develop more tools to enable them to tap into individual pockets of knowledge and use them for cross-group collaborations. Tapping into that ‘knowledge’ is something the team at The Future Shapers have helped large, complex organisations look at. We refer to it as ‘Intelligence’ and it’s one of three core components of our thought-leading methodology ‘Building a Next Generation OrganisationTM’ which helps organisations understand what an innovation-led iteration of themselves would need to look like in order to build a strategy for change in pursuit of innovation.
No two organisations are alike and therefore building a culture of innovation has to be individual to each business. However, those looking to understand what their innovation options are can look to the success of others as a catalyst for ideas. That organisations such as the Tata group have been working on collaboration and innovation for a number of years and still believe that they can go further is an important lesson for those who believe that changing to a culture of innovation will be a ‘quick fix.’ Building a culture of innovation is not a tick box exercise, nor is it something, which can be introduced and then left to fend for itself. Collaborative innovation requires a long-term resolve and commitment on the part of the business leaders to change the DNA of the organisation to one which will eventually treat collaboration as an integral part of every action and interaction, approach and decision. Within a traditional organisation I stand alone. Within a collaborative organisation my knowledge and abilities are shared with your knowledge and abilities to shape the future.
If you’d like to find out more about our approach get in touch, alternatively, you may be interested in our latest book: “Building a Culture of Innovation – A Practical Framework for Placing Innovation at the Core of Your Business” Written by Cris Beswick, Derek Bishop and Jo Geraghty the book is being published by Kogan Page on 3rd December 2015 and is available for pre-order now.