In my recent post on
agile co-creation, I said, “Co-creation requires a shift in mindset, contracting, and
The shift can be paradoxical for business leaders who view partnering as a
tool for throwing problems over the fence and managing a project or service
at arm’s length. I’ll tackle how to partner with solutions and service
providers in the future, and in this post, I advise on co-creating with
partners on innovation programs.
must change outdated mindsets before partnering on innovation programs and
emerging technology poofs of concepts or risk program derailments.
Successful innovation programs require a co-creation model – collaboration
and partnership between employees and partners, to connect new capabilities
with targeted business outcomes.
If you want to change people’s mindsets, start by discussing motivations and
goals before focusing on a specific opportunity. I believe answering these
why questions are critical when realigning business leaders and
asking employees to collaborate with partners.
Why partner on innovation and proof of concepts
One reason Digital Trailblazers look to partner on innovation is recognizing
that there’s a learning curve when testing new technologies and data
capabilities. Instead of asking employees to learn from basics to best
practices from scratch, partnerships offer a way to accelerate learning and
dual-path multiple approaches.
“Co-creating with new partners unlocks innovations by delivering net new
outcomes without having to start at zero,” says Fred Schonenberg, founder of
VentureFuel. “You can leverage
existing superpowers and align on a desired outcome to more efficiently and
uniquely achieve new and improved results.”
When realigning business leaders’ and employees’ mindsets, answer why you’re
looking to partner by focusing on the learning opportunities. One reason is
that innovations are experiments, and you’re learning whether and how to
apply new capabilities.
More importantly, learning requires pairing up partners with employees,
including subject matter experts, product leaders, technology specialists,
and data experts. This partnership is the heart of a co-creation model,
which requires pairing employees with partners on agile planning and
experimenting. Without a co-creation model, your partners learn, and the
Vision and charter the initiative while seeking partners
When you’re seeking a solution or service provider, you often have a
reasonable idea of what problem or opportunity you’re trying to address. In
the best scenario, you can write a request for proposal (RFP) and attempt to
create an apples-to-apples comparison between competing partners’
capabilities. I use the word attempt because too many organizations
fall into analysis paralysis by creating an overly complex multi-dimensional
bakeoff between solution providers that yields inconclusive results. But
I’ll cover this problem in a future post.
Seeking innovation partners is different and requires an evolutionary
discovery process. You’re learning partner capabilities and technologies
while discussing and debating what problems and opportunities to prioritize.
You want partners to explain how emerging capabilities will extend the
existing IT infrastructure, processing, and data capabilities.
“Finding partners to openly communicate how a specific project’s focus will
impact management, IT teams, and everyday users can make all businesses
smarter,” says Daniel Fallmann, founder and CEO of
Mindbreeze. “Ultimately, finding the right partner relies on figuring out how your
resources can help each other.“
Co-creation starts with co-writing a
and charter for the program. The vision statement sets expectations with
business stakeholders, partners, and employees on the objectives and success
criteria. The charter outlines roles and responsibilities. Both tools help
reshape the internal mindset – you’re not outsourcing; you’re partnering and
co-creating. And As Fallmann notes, an innovation partner also needs this
alignment to assign the optimal team and advise on experiments.
Ultimately, there should be learning objectives and a target of bringing
innovations to production. Fallmann continues, “As CIOs discuss the business
value of new and exciting tech, their production path relies on the agility of
their IT infrastructure and the ability of their IT department.”
If your organization doesn’t have one, review and download
StarCIO’s one-page vision statement template
and apply it to your next innovation program.
Where partnering can be a digital transformation force multiplier
When an emerging technology’s velocity exceeds the organization’s ability to
develop skills internally, partners offer an opportunity to accelerate
learning, experimenting, and delivering competitive capabilities.
A digital transformation force multiplier
is when a transformation initiative targets multiple business outcomes, and
co-creation often addresses learning, innovation, and competitive capability
Where are some emerging tech opportunities to partner? Marko Anastasov,
co-founder of Semaphore CI/CD,
answers, “There is currently an AI gold rush. CIOs can partner with AI
companies to offer new products that seem to work like magic.”
Arjun Chandar, CEO at IndustrialML,
says selecting incremental advancements is one way to validate emerging
technologies, especially when introducing
that can impact several operational areas. “Offering emerging tech as an
evolution rather than a revolution helps such tech get past the PoC stage
more quickly,” he says. “For example, using digital twins or AI to enhance
the capabilities of people to perform their existing work – rather than
replacing existing work with new expectations – is a way to make
production-level adoption of emerging tech easier.”
A partner can help an emerging tech work like magic, but their insights on
transitioning from learning to PoCs and production capabilities are
important to consider. Delivering innovations that yield business learning
and outcomes requires a commitment to partnership, and co-creation
innovation models help align people across program phases.