September 11


Should You Be Collaborating Outside Your Organization?

By Walt

September 11, 2020

As Innovators or even Inventors, we often get stuck in our own heads. That is not always bad, but certainly more #diversity in our thinking and critical input from customers, partners and peers can go a long way to driving successful business outcomes. This article is valuable because it is a direct reminder (and has supporting Harvard Business Review references) and outlines key considerations for your existing business, or your new start-up. 

Should You Be Collaborating Outside Your Organization?

Written by Emer Walsh

For many organizations worldwide innovation is handled primarily through the knowledge and input of its employees. Internal innovation can be done through a variety of means; employee forums are often hosted to gather ideas regarding current organizational challenges, or more recently teams of innovation management offices have become more common within businesses. These teams are tasked with reviewing, progressing and re-evaluating the organization’s innovative activities.

However, the world is currently facing unprecedented times, organizations are facing new and unexpected challenges that requires insight past the employees’ expertise. For many this has raised the question as to where, and more importantly, how can an organization gain the necessary information to overcome the challenges they’re facing?

Why organizations often don’t collaborate externally?

Internal collaboration as initiatives ‘often meet with resistance because they place an extra burden on individuals’[1]. However, organizations choose to continually focus on them as ‘the potential benefits of collaboration are significant: innovative cross-unit product development, increased sales through cross-selling, the transfer of best practices that reduce costs’[2]. With remote working becoming more normal, the importance of collaboration is being highlighted to individuals. Innovation software is also becoming more user friendly and supporting collaboration through integration into everyday collaboration tools. This integration removes the burden from your employees, but many organizations are still hesitant to widen their channels to include external parties.


Concerns surrounding competitor intervention and intellectual property often surround conversation regarding external collaboration. To some engaging with the collective intelligence of customers, partners, suppliers and more is off the table solely due to these complications. Much like internal collaboration transparency and establishing levels of ownership will often mitigate these concerns and discovering the technology that can support that.

Why you should be collaborating externally?

Gaining the ability to collaborate externally opens your organization up to an ever-expanding pool of knowledge. Partners and suppliers have an in-depth understanding of networks and materials used in the development of products, but also possess outside perspective to current processes. Leveraging their insights could create opportunity for more sustainable deliverables.

Organizations such as L’Oréal and Renault have collaborated previously on an electric “spa” concept car[3]. Lego has engaged customers to generate new ideas for collectables and other products. Governments and public health bodies often collaborate with academics to develop crucial research. Collaborating with external stakeholders enables organizations no matter the industry to expand their innovation capabilities and leverage necessary information to develop solutions which support the organizations strategy and have a lasting impact.


About the author

I love helping businesses get started or improving their processes. My business is focusing on the raw data that businesses generate & making sense of all of it. I live statistics and optimizing business workflows.

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