Why collaborating outside your business could see big benefits

3rd November 2015

Collaboration is often seen as an internal process. But why not also reach out to external partners, industry experts and customers for help?

Your suppliers, business partners and customers see a side of your business that employees never do.

Industrial giant GE Mining is one example of a corporation that has recognised this – it routinely asks global experts to weigh in on its biggest problems. In 2013, the company invited engineers from around the world to vie for a $7000 prize to design a lighter bracket for one of its jet engines. An Indonesian engineer, external to GE, claimed the crown after creating a design that eliminated 84 per cent of the bracket’s weight.

 So how can your business do the same and collaborate with external stakeholders to generate new ideas and strategies?

 Innovate through partnerships

 While it may be easy to rely on tried-and-tested strategies within your organisation, it’s imperative to implement a culture of innovation.

 Two decades ago, competition was lacking across most industries – a far cry from the startup culture of today. Take a look at supermarket chain Coles, which has experienced a rapid change in customer perception in recent years.

 In response to new competitors like Aldi, IGA and boutique grocers, Coles shifted to an innovation mindset by reaching out to external partners to improve its business. It brought in UK retail businessman Ian McLeod to revamp Coles as a shopping experience, not unlike that of Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

 As a result, more collaboration followed. Australian chef Curtis Stone came on board as a celebrity brand ambassador, while a “Heston for Coles” food range popped up on shelves courtesy of UK chef Heston Blumenthal.

Tips on collaborating

 Put more money into your research and development initiatives. Electronics company Samsung, which has stolen market share from leading technology players, allocates approximately 8 per cent of its revenue to research and development.

 Improve your business strategy by investing in technology that encourages collaboration, like cloud computing and project management software that maps the progress of projects across the company. Arm staff at all levels with the autonomy to network and come up with ideas. Employees who are given more decision-making opportunities will make a greater investment in your company and go that extra mile.

 No matter what size your business or your business strategy, it pays to think like a startup. Asking for help from external parties will drive innovation that could never be achieved by keeping collaboration in-house.

Spark innovation both internally and externally by thinking outside the box when looking for a new idea or solution, and watch your business reap the rewards.

To find out what challenges your business and competitors could face in 2016, view our free infographic.
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