Making the Most of Strategic Relationships

Co-CreateNecessity may be the mother of invention, but collaboration is most commonly the father.

Great products are rarely invented by solo practitioners. Great companies cannot be produced by a recluse.

Our increasingly interdependent world makes relationship-building more critical than ever. And a helpful guide in the transformational journey is found in David Nour’s new book Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration.

Nour’s ideas provide a thought-provoking guide to innovation, evolution, and growth.

Rodger Dean Duncan: How does co-creation differ from traditional partnerships, alliances, or mergers?

David Nour: Iteration is doing the same thing better, Innovation is doing new things, and Disruption is doing new things that make the old obsolete.

Most companies do iteration just fine. When it comes to innovation, they can (a) build it themselves, (b) partner for it, or (c) buy it. Those are the classic partnerships/alliances or acquisitions. They are often highly transactional and, unfortunately, many are deemed unsuccessful for various reasons (often cultural misalignment).

Co-creation is the fourth bucket when exploring innovation and links ideation to execution.

Duncan: What are the keys to getting others to invest their time and effort in your organization’s success?

Nour: Appeal to their logical self-interest! Take the well-known, yet often poorly practiced, What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) and get more strategic, intentional and quantifiable. Bring people into the collaboration process much earlier than you’ve ever done before. Push them and ask them to push back the joint efforts beyond motherhood and apple pie (duh moments!) to really think and lead differently.

People fundamentally gather for two reasons: content and community. Light a fire within them to create something they wouldn’t have been able to on their own in the past. Then build a community of like-minded, intelligent, engaging people with a common vision, mission, or enemy!

Duncan: Successful co-creation seems to improve disruption. Uber has been great at disrupting the traditional taxi business, but now the company is facing some huge potholes. What co-creation principles and practices could help Uber return to a smooth performance and growth path?

Nour: Co-creation makes disruption a moving target. It’s a journey, not a destination. Many speak of Uber’s efforts in the past tense. They disrupted the traditional taxi and limo business, but co-creation mandates that you continue to iterate, innovate, and disrupt. Uber has built a platform, an ecosystem. What else could they do with it? How about co-creating grocery deliveries with the Amazon/Whole Foods purchase? How about co-creating two drivers to go pick up an intoxicated or a medically-disabled patient where the second driver helps get their car back home? How about co-creating more “mobile” sets of services, i.e. mechanics, pet care, personal styling, etc. where the Uber drivers bring those services to where they’re needed? It’s not clear that Uber can do any of those alone. They’ll need to co-create the service (and the business/revenue model) with a strategic relationship.

Duncan: In many (most?) organizations, metrics and compensation seem more focused on input than outcomes. What can leaders do to cultivate more “intrapreneurs” who innovate new and better ways to meet the needs of customers?

Nour: Innovation, in many (most) organizations, is seen as a disease that must be inoculated. That’s why I often refer to those in charge of eliminating organizational risk as oncologists! If you consider the role of a Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Risk Officer, Chief Financial Officer, or General Counsel, they’re predominately focused on keeping the “execution box” they’ve built humming with no disruption to its ability to execute!

Want more intrapreneurs? Recruit entrepreneurs, get them out of the corporate office and away from the shackles that kill new ideas. Give them the runway to take prudent risk and test the application of their ideas. Fund interesting concepts that have a high degree of disruption of your business model. Don’t just go along with the popular trends to fund “innovation centers.” They’re destined to fail. Fund innovative minds and create a nurturing ecosystem that allows them to think and lead differently.

Innovation starts with a leader who has both the courage and the vision to think and lead differently.

This column by Dr. Duncan was also published by Forbes where he is a regular contributor. Follow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan

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Rodger Dean Duncan

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP and a regular contributor to Forbes and Fast Company magazines. He is widely known for his expertise in the strategic management of change, for organizations and for individuals. In 1972 he founded Duncan Worldwide to train and develop leaders. His clients have included some of the top companies in the world, as well as cabinet officers in two White House administrations.

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