Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Does the cleaning lady have the answer to your next innovation?


Last week, MCC International was Gold Sponsor of Collaborate2Innovate 2010, a free-to-attend event for innovative businesses, entrepreneurs, tech specialists and educational institutions to learn more about the innovation process and potentially meet new strategic partners. We were delighted to see over 300 delegates at Building 1000 in Portsmouth’s Lakeside North Harbour in the throes of conversation from the moment we stepped into the exhibition area in the morning.

Last year at Collaborate2Innovate 2009, the University of Portsmouth and Classic Folios, the UK’s leading supplier of luxury leather binders and leather presenting folders, formed a partnership which attracted £72,695 in Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). So it’s not difficult to see the rewards that collaboration can bring, however unusual the partnership.

In fact, it was Roland Harwood, founder of open innovation organisation 100% Open, who highlighted during his keynote at Collaborate2Innovate how several seemingly disparate businesses were able effectively collaborate to produce significant successes. As employees we are often told to ‘think outside the box’, but, as Harwood explained, if you think of your box as your industry, why not look outside your industry completely?

Lego, Proctor & Gamble and Virgin Atlantic are all pioneers of open innovation. When Proctor & Gamble partnered with Fraser Design, those responsible for the Sky TV remote, they found an innovative way to remove stains from clothing, using a technique that the pharmaceutical giant hadn’t even come close to developing. Incorporating this formula into their next detergent Proctor & Gamble is still a market leader in its space.

Virgin Atlantic took advantage of their frequent flyers’ independent online community, which shared advice and tips on flying with the airline, by cultivating this information and ended up running the community itself to generate new ideas. This ‘crowdsourcing’ has been a growing buzzword for a couple of years, and with the proliferation of twitter and other social media platforms, it has become the perfect outlet for companies to harness the power of their customers to discover their next business move (IBM’s Global Jams being a more famous example).

Businesses all over the world spend millions of dollars on research and development hoping to find their next innovation. Collaboration, whether with another organisation or your audience, shares that risk, divides the reward and could help catapult your business to a very healthy bottom line.
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