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8th March 2021

Stock image of people holding hands to show collaboration

Successful innovation is a collaborative process

People sharing knowledge and working collaboratively is essential for innovation, I’d argue.  Trott (2017) in the book entitled ‘Innovation Management’ & New Product Development’ proposed an ‘interactive model’ of innovation that combined traditional market pull and technology push models, primarily to describe and explain new product development (NPD).  He suggested that innovation occurs as a result of interaction with the marketplace, the knowledge and capabilities within an organisation and the science base (knowledge) that managers have access to.  My work with organisationes over the last fifteen years leads me to agree with Trott (2017) who suggested there’s no explicit starting point for an innovation process and supports the episodic view of innovations, which can be initiated by internal and external stimuli. Therefore, managers and people at all levels of a organisation can initiate and deliver process innovation if there are procedures within an organisation to support innovation. I’d also suggest that innovation is often the product of complex interactions with internal and external knowledge of people within the organisation and their external relationships.

Photo of a conversation between Gary Walpole and the Senior Emerging Technology Engineer at Ford Bridgend

A top down approach

My research with businesses that successfully innovate has led me to agree with contemporary authors who argue that knowledge management through interactive knowledge exchange processes is imperative for successful innovation.  It’s imperative that leaders encourage and engage people across the organisation with innovation as encouraging people to make suggestions around challenges the organisation faces is an important source of ideas. Innovation has to be fostered and facilitated by leaders and managers in order for ideas and suggestions to be developed.  It’s also important for resources and a space to be made available by the organisation to provide a focal point for innovation. The space doesn’t need to be as high-tech as the Ford ‘innovation lab’ that features in the video, it can simply be a room where people have a whiteboard and space to create and talk through potential new processes or practices and solve problems.

Ford Bridgend
Photo of a 3D printer at Ford Bridgend

Sharing knowledge and ideas

Collaborating with others to solve problems, within the organisation and outside of the organisation, can often result in solutions that save the organistion money and reduce carbon footprint. The Open Innovation Community of Practice programme I ran, with the support of Welsh Government, encouraged managers and leaders to adopt a co-creational innovation model and engages people from different businesses to share knowledge and support each other to solve problems. Engaging with people from outside the organisation often brings a different perspective and allows problems to be solved effectively.  Collaborating with people from other organisations enables concepts and prototypes to be tested inexpensively and can often lead to effective collaborations.  In summary, innovation should be viewed as a collaborative process that is far more likely to succeed if people from across the organisation and people from outside the organisation are engaged to develop potential solutions and to test concepts and early prototypes.

Find out more about our predecessor projects

Author: Gary Walpole is project director for the CEIC project. Find out more about the CEIC team here.