Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy - InformationWeek
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09:59 AM
Dan Keldsen
Dan Keldsen
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Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy

Given the global economic changes that began in 2008, we've been forced into a new way of working. Is your company burying its head in the sand, or taking the best that people have to give?

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There are times when you, as a manager or executive, can take the time to architect a change-management process, much as I described in my previous column. Often, change management, even when intended to make changes easy to understand and transition, is bungled. And other times, change simply happens to us, and the test of our mettle comes with how we react to that change. Bury our heads in the sand and hope it blows over? Or figure out how we're going to survive it, then embrace it and move forward?

My firm is wrapping up research on collaborative innovation, and we highlighted our findings in a recent webinar. I led that webinar with the context that we're now almost four years after the "econolypse" that smashed the world economy, an economy that's slowly being rebuilt--sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The new reality is that there are fewer people in the workplace and there's far more work to be done. (Fear of over-hiring is a serious problem.) Companies with employees who worked ONLY as standalone, departmentalized "cube workers" can no longer afford to work that way.

[ How is the economy shifting? See Accenture Sees High Tech Firms Moving To Multiple Business Models. ]

But as someone who has been involved in both Enterprise 2.0 and innovation management since well before 2008, I've been amazed at how many companies I work with that have seen this massive economic shock as a wakeup call.

One glass-half-empty commenter on our survey sees the econolypse creating a two-fold effect: "First, there are fewer people to source or to do sourcing [for collaborative innovation]. Second, the elimination of jobs has reduced morale and forced all employees to work even harder. The focus now is on things with direct results, which makes less direct things like brainstorming [or collaboration] a tough sell."

Another survey respondent's more positive comment better sums up the attitude of most of my clients: "Pre-2008, [collaborative innovation] was not on my personal radar. Now I have the opportunity to observe how team members work together in an environment that is outside of their normal work routines. This creates stronger organizational bonds across departments and functions. In sum, it builds a stronger and more resilient firm. Ultimately, I have stronger and better managers and teams to rely on."

Creating a "stronger and more resilient firm" is a necessity, as there are no guarantees that the economic shockwaves have stopped.

As you head into the rest of 2012 and the years to follow, consider how you worked pre-2008 versus post-2008, and where you are now. Have you changed enough to weather the next storm? Are you actually getting the best you can out of your workforce?

This isn't just about better collaboration and knowledge-management tools. Another survey respondent summed things up well: "The industry is more accepting now of collaboration and shared intelligence. Tools are better, but so, too, are attitudes."

I've held many technology roles over the years, and much of my work involves finding appropriate technologies to drive collaborative innovation at scale. But if you're waiting for the "perfect" or "best available" technology to power your company out of the econolypse, I'll let another respondent have the final word on collaborative innovation: "If you don't work this way, you miss the best people have to give."

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference brings together industry thought leaders to explore the latest innovations in enterprise social software, analytics, and big data tools and technologies. Learn how your business can harness these tools to improve internal business processes and create operational efficiencies. It happens in Boston, June 18-21. Register today!

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/14/2012 | 11:06:42 AM
re: Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy
I have ben expereincing this very phenom with an ex-company I am about to facilitate and engage in collaborative innovation with a major creative customer of theirs. The question being, beyond the "sand heads" that remain at the company, is still about IP. Social media is great, but please don't ask a corporate lawyer to sort through ownership especially with multiple entities in a social network environment.
Consider this. I am an ex-employee brought into a consulting position to "get things back on track". I will be facilitating my past associates who survived by laying low and working along side a major customer of theirs to generate the next generation of products. Cool, huh?
User Rank: Apprentice
6/2/2012 | 3:17:26 PM
re: Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy
Deb - absolutely - the technologies/capabilities are always running ahead of what individuals and organizations are ready for.

The upside of the economy of the last 3-4 years is that it's forced people (except those in complete denial or shock) to seriously re-evaluate how they engage their employees, customers, partners and suppliers.

I'll be tackling this more in upcoming articles - and in the meantime, the full report/ebook on Collaborative Innovation has been released at:

Dan Keldsen
President, Information Architected
Partner in the Human 1.0 Network
Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/4/2012 | 2:51:37 AM
re: Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy
With the maturation of internal social networking tools available for businesses today, it seems like the technology is in place for the kind of innovative collaboration you are talking about. The culture is coming along more slowly at many organizations, but it seems to be coming along.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
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