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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

Want to innovate? Collaboration is key!

Cartoon: person in chef’s hat looking at a cake piped with the word ‘innovate’ thinking ‘Mmm, would collaborating improve my innovation?’

Being ‘collaborative’ and ‘innovative’ are buzzwords of the moment. To innovate means to introduce changes and new ideas in the way something is done or made.

One benefit of collaboration is the ability to find solutions to a problem by working with others who can bring different experiences to the table. So it makes sense to work collaboratively when seeking to innovate.

How does collaboration fit into innovation?

To use an analogy, let’s think about baking a cake, we’ll call it an ‘innovation’ cake. You need ingredients, a method, equipment and a cook. Ideas to try out, technology, some new research, etc. are your ingredients. Resources like money, skills and a team are your equipment. Collaboration is the method that brings all the ingredients together in an effective way.

Using this method, you need more than one cook. It’s more like being in a test kitchen, where you work together to experiment, try out new ingredients, and look for new taste sensations. In that way you are more likely to come up with new ideas for an ‘innovation cake’; it’s not your basic sponge anymore.

How would collaborating help me innovate?

1. Understanding the challenge – what are the issues about the way something is done or made? What are the opportunities? This is going to be better understood with the benefit of diverse perspectives.

2. Coming up with new ideas – new ideas come from people with different experiences, skills and knowledge and you will be able to bounce ideas off one another and let them grow and evolve to create new possibilities.

3. Trying out possible solutions – the ideas are likely to be tested and scrutinised from more angles when working with people with different skills, experiences and viewpoints.

4. Deciding what to take forward – working collaboratively means that there is genuine buy-in to the desired outcomes and everyone is open to challenge which makes for a fair and equitable decision-making process.

5. Implementing the chosen idea – it makes sense to share ownership, risk and marketing with those who have an equal stake in achieving the desired outcomes.

So, if the challenge was to make a vegan Victoria sponge, working collaboratively would mean that: 1. you’d have a better understanding of issues like price point and market potential; 2. you’d have more sources of ideas for dairy alternatives and baking processes; 3. you’d benefit from different perspectives of what is working well and what could improve, such as taste and texture, manufacturing options, ingredient supply, costs; 4. being open to challenge means that you’re more likely to take forward the option that a diverse group thinks will have the best chance of success with retailers and consumers; and 5. you’ll have more buy-in from partners and access to diverse networks to secure that route to market.

Collaboration works for innovation. Many of us are striving to be more collaborative and innovative and are trying to make spaces that are conducive to this way of working. The next blog tackles: what is the recipe for a collaborative environment? And, is there a key ingredient that makes it work?

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