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BW Businessworld

Are You Innovation Ready?

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Collaborative innovation will be key for success in the future. Corporate leaders realise that they need to work collaboratively with their business partners, customers and governments to innovate successfully for the future. Innovation ecosystems that span across public and private sectors and extend to include citizens and societies have to be formed. Collaborative innovation is the name of the game for future success.

In one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on collaborative innovation, [email protected], in collaboration with Logica, surveyed two hundred CxO level business leaders from blue-chip organisations from both the public and private sectors across the world, about their views on collaborative innovation. The research (available on http://elab.insead.edu) shows that, although they claim to grant high priority to collaborative innovation, most companies are handicapped by low levels of innovation readiness.

The research reveals that while collaborating with external partners is an important enabler of innovation, executing such partnerships is difficult. This is akin to winning three-legged races. It is a game of balancing cooperation and competition while focusing on winning. Around the world, organisations are struggling to identify the best strategies and approaches to 'win together'.

The culture of sharing, of risk taking and of working with diverse partners, employees and goals are all aspects that touch on successful innovation, and in particular, collaborative innovation. Complementing cultures can be a strength, however, cultural mismatches are frequently the stumbling block in designing effective collaborative innovation.

This research shows that organisations need an effective innovation 'multi-culture' where different aspects of an organisation's behaviour are combined in varying proportions, depending on the stage of the innovation process. For example, diversity of experience and background is more valuable in the idea generation phase, whereas common goals and working styles may be more important in the execution phase.

Effective implementation involves directing resources appropriately to ensure that competing priorities are resolved effectively.  Getting the balance between innovation and managing the day-to-day demands of the business is one of the greatest challenges respondents experienced.

Collaborative innovation does not succeed in a vacuum. Leadership has to create a fertile foundation for collaboration and innovation to thrive. Just saying 'innovation is important' does not make it so. Simply setting up an innovation function, and allocating money to it, does not create innovation. Innovation has to move beyond the hype and be grounded in the reality of the organisation. It is time for leaders to step up and meet the innovation challenge head-on.

The author is the Roland Berger Chaired Professor of Business and Technology at INSEAD, France.  He has authored  several books on technology, policy and innovation. He can be reached at: soumitra dot dutta at insead dot edu