Collaboration and innovation are not mutually exclusive; innovation happens through collaboration. In an articles for Forbes, Kate Vitasek expands on how "Good ideas can come from anywhere and leading companies are finding that innovation is often produced over time with a lot of collective sweat equity by many people."
The article focusses on successful collaborations by giant companies such as Proctor and Gamble, whose CEO A. G Lafley set a vision that “Half of our new products [would] come from our own labs, and half would come through them.” The approach certainly worked for P&G, as they invested in what Vitasek terms a "Highly collaborative Vested 'What’s-in-it-for-We' business model."
The key to P&G's success certainly benefitted from finding open-minded business to work with, but it's worth remembering the original goal the P&G CEO set - half from outside, half from inside. That involves major collaboration and co-operation within the business, as well as with outside parties. For many businesses, it is this element of internal collaboration and co-operation that is a major challenge in itself.
Collaboration and co-operation amongst your employees is key to the success of your business. Without it, employees work in isolation, unable or unwilling to share knowledge, insights and business acumen across the desk, let alone across departments. By fostering a culture of collaboration within your business, you can liberate all that creativity and experience to focus on the challenges in your business. Ideas may be the spark of innovation, but collaboration is the fuel that drives it forward and shapes 'lightbulb moments' into new products, new services, and better ways of working.
So, before you start looking outside your business for new partnerships, make sure it's happening inside your organisation first. Indeed, the Forbes article comes to much the same conclusion:
"The future will likely be won by those who don’t wait for light-bulb moments from a single genius, but rather develop highly collaborative win-win relationships that leverage the collective power of many."