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Innovating & collaborating with people - Power to the People!

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by Startacus Admin

With Startacus' own collaboration platform on its way very soon, the subject of ideas, innovation and collaboration is close to Startacus' heart.

Guest Writer Clare Griffiths asks; Innovating with people? What’s that all about?


Many people mistakenly limit innovation with technological developments. However, as I have already asserted in this series, innovation is much more than that – it is about doing things differently to create collaborationpositive impact for you and your business. So far in this series, we have explored where businesses innovate in terms of product development and user experience, and we have also seen how businesses innovate through business model generation to create alternative streams of revenue. In this post “Power to the People”, we will look at how companies use people to innovate, so that you can then explore how you could utilise your own networks to help you innovate in your venture.

There are a few different ways in which businesses can use people to innovate. They can invite their employees to submit ideas for new products, services or processes, for example, or they can even change their teams around to get staff members to see and experience the company from different perspectives. Alternatively, they can collaborate with their customers to think up new ways of doing things and to improve their current business offering. (Just the other day, Startacus invited ideas from its network members to develop new initiatives!) Increasingly, companies are also seeking expertise from outside the organisation, in recognition that industry experts and opinion leaders exist beyond the four walls of the organisation. This is often referred to as “open innovation”.
How are other businesses innovating with people?

There are a lot of companies now who have embraced the concept of open innovation, and who regularly invite ideas from people both inside and outside their organisation. Here are two recent examples which may interest you:

Creative Swap Week– Between 24 and 28 September 2012, a range of different creative agencies took part in a week-long event, swapping one member of their team with staff from another creative agency. This initiative was designed to encourage participants to share ideas, knowledge and experience, and inspire creative thinking and collaboration. Undoubtedly, the agencies who participated in the initiative did not only gain new ideas and fresh insights, but also benefited from meeting potential partners for future collaborative work. 

Un Jour, Un Chef – is a 50-cover Parisian restaurant which allows an amateur cook to be Head Chef for one night. With expert support from the restaurant staff, the amateur cook can use their creative flair and culinary passion to create and serve their own dream meals. Not only does this give amateur cooks some valuable professional work experience, but it also keeps the restaurant menu varied, and is an attention-grabbing unique quality for the restaurant! (Whenever you are next in Paris, why not treat yourself: http://www.1jour1chef.com/index.php)?
So, how can I work out whom to innovate with?

collaborationIf you would like to engage with other people to help you come up with new ways of doing things, then a good starting point is to analyse who is currently in your professional network, who may be able to support you during the innovation process. To do this, you can simply draw a mindmap featuring all the different types of people you are already in contact with. Group the people into different categories (for example, business partners, former and current colleagues, customers, end users, suppliers, distributors, mentors, professional associates, key opinion leaders and experts etc.) and then think about which particular aspects of your business they know most about (e.g. the quality of your products and/or services, the user experience, your customer service, your supply chain etc.). Once you have analysed which areas they are most familiar with, you then need to decide which of those different groups you want to approach in order to gather ideas for improving the different areas of your business.

In the words of Jozek Gruskovnjak (Director,Emerging Markets, Cisco Systems), “Open innovation reflects the main trends of the present time, when the power moves away from centralised institutions towards the individuals”.

The sooner businesses recognise the value of innovating with people outside their own organisation – the better their business will be. Collaborating with others externally does not necessarily have to cost you much – or anything even – so whatever stage you are at with your business development, it is never too early to start giving more power to the people!

Clare Griffiths is the Director of The Ideas People which specialises in supporting businesses and organisations to generate, manage and implement their ideas, so that they can gain competitive advantage, achieve business growth and bring about positive change. Cheers Clare for your words - great stuff.  

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Published on: 31st October 2012

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