The win of collaborative innovation

woman and man about to shake hands

“We start together and we finish together,” as my sports instructor likes to say. This mantra has followed me for several years and I always like to remember it when thinking about teamwork. Leap by digitalswitzerland fosters a very special kind of teamwork: cross-organisational innovative collaboration. As the Swiss platform for multi-stakeholder innovation,  Leap enables organisations to harness the power of collaboration to create value for the economy and society. But let’s have a closer look at the expression of innovative collaboration.

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the following definitions are given:

  • Collaborative: “the act of working with another person or group of people to create or produce something”
  • Innovation: “the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something”

Combining these two definitions leads us to the following conclusion: Collaborative Innovation is the act of introducing new ideas or creating something by working with another person or group of people.

Idea Management

We have seen now that it’s all about creating new ideas. In fact, no innovation can be created without an initial idea. For an idea to grow and to develop into a tangible project, it needs to be shared and discussed. Peers should give feedback and cross-validate the idea to transform it into a solution. When sharing knowledge and gathering different points of view, the outcome will not only be bigger but also more valuable for various stakeholders. Another benefit of sharing current struggles and ideas with a community is that those in favour of the proposals are likely to be first in line to help implement the innovation project. For Jan Friedli, Project Manager at Leap, this pattern in behaviour has not gone unnoticed: “ Nothing unites organisations more than a shared problem of critical importance that craves an immediate collaborative solution.”

Climbing that mountain

This process of (cross-organisational) collaboration requires trust, open-mindedness and communication. The Leap team is happy to serve as the connectors, the communicators and the coordinators for collaborative projects. Stephanie Tauber Gomez, Co-Lead Leap, shares her definition of collaborative innovation: “Collaborative innovation means identifying the shared pains between different organisations and bringing the diverse capabilities to jointly create solutions which otherwise would not have been possible.”

The Leap team believes that innovation should make life, or even the world better for as many parties as possible. And unlike what some may think, innovation is not just there to stand out from the competition, it is foremost meant to help solve problems. Leap brings like-minded people together who are facing similar challenges in their organisations but don’t have the in-house capabilities to solve them alone, or the hurdles are simply too big to overcome without a little help. Once the most pressing challenges of all have been identified, as Stephanie put it, “the goal is to create solutions that merely become a possibility thanks to collaboration. The intended outcome is to create win-win situations employing an innovative collaborative project.”

We all know the feeling of facing a challenge – it can feel like standing at the foot of Mount Everest, not knowing how to ever reach the base camp. Today’s challenges can be extremely complex and to find creative solutions, we need to bring different organisations together. If we team up, support each other and share our techniques, we will reach that base camp or – in our case – find the solutions to transversal challenges together. It may not make the way up shorter, but it most likely makes it much more fun and feel easier to reach the top.

Crossing the finish line collaboratively

Working together means sharing resources, accepting different perspectives as well as joining different areas of expertise. To think out of the box can sometimes be easier when brainstorming in a group of professionals who share the same challenges but come from different backgrounds. 

Circling back to the opening quote – we start together and we finish together -, with the platform provided by Leap, the path is paved perfectly for cross-organisational collaboration. If you start together from the beginning, by finding a common focus, and continue to go step-by-step toward a pioneering goal by learning, failing and succeeding as a team, you will cross that finish line and create a project together that will add value for all stakeholders. Guillaume Gabus, Co-Lead Leap, sums it up nicely:  “Creativity, knowledge, action, trust, ambitious goals and the courage to apply learning – that’s what collaborative innovation is all about!”

What are you waiting for? Next time (which might be even right now) you are facing an overwhelming challenge, think of like-minded peers. Reach out to the Leap Team and claim their support. Soon, you will be teaming up with others, creating visionary ideas and executing them. All it takes is the courage to think outside the box and for you to grasp the great opportunity of combining forces and creating collaborative innovation.

Author: Melanie Holenweger

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