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Our whole understanding of innovation is changing; there are numerous shifts occurring.

We are evaluating and changing our existing focus from closed (internal orientation) into ones that are having a far more open stance. We are searching for more collaborative innovation (external orientation) combining external partners into more ‘collective thinking’. This shift is offering us extra acceleration that is needed to improve our innovation performances from concept to market delivery.

Collaborative innovation is also leading us to higher chances of achieving greater impact and success, as nearly all novel ideas lay outside the organization's domain of understanding. As we increasingly include the customer and their needs within our understanding, these multiple collaborations and dialogues are building this better internal understanding.

There also seems that many organizations are presently searching for their new business models’ of innovation delivery or architecture. I’d say we are presently in a state of flux on adjusting to all of what this might mean, in customer and market offerings, as well as internally adapting our structures to the new forms required in these business model changes.

Equally, we are constantly moving from managing in linear innovation processes and making these more adaptive, constantly looping back when new information or data is being discovered, increasing  this knowledge and insight in highly dynamic, constantly evolving and informing ways. 

Adjusting to many different forms of external relationships

We are forming external relationships in many different ways as this increased diversity does matter to each organization for building different competitive positions in their innovation offerings.

We are creating the potential to deliver innovative products and services through new business models that would not have bene enabled by only having the one organization attempting it. Collaborations are significantly adding value into the innovation equation.

Also we are seeing complexity rising significantly. The search for finding greater value is shifting even further, increasingly forming around innovation ecosystems, loose federations of vested interest, forming and dispersing when the job is complete.

Is ecosystem thinking part of your innovation make up? Let me offer some thoughts.

So why are business ecosystems emerging as a real competitive force?

As we begin to open up our thinking the concept of ecosystems will increasingly having a powerful effect on our future growth perspectives, as different partners will all contribute to this often ‘emergent’ thinking to increase the total sum of the value.

Our innovation exploration will become far more evolutionary and requires a completely different way to think and manage these ‘relationship contract’s’ that are forming around a given concept of platform engagements. As we tap into all the expertise up and down the value chain we will become far more aware and will need to explore all the depth in thinking, contributing and making available through extending our connections in deeper and broader ways. Knowing how to adjust, accommodate and shift our thinking requires us to become more agile, finding new ways of connecting and working.

A single industry focus is in decline

Opportunities exist everywhere. We need to look well beyond our own industry to evaluate different perspectives, seek out the potential of different concepts that can be adapted to our own industry. Many companies are exploring the value of becoming involved in a business ecosystem that crosses a variety of industries to build new communities that have the capacity to transform existing environments.

As an example, let’s take the “battle of mobile devices” has now become a war of building the better ecosystem. It is not one single product it is chasing increasing share of minds, preferences, changing habits and tastes and to achieve this ‘paradigm’ shift the search is on for forming the ecosystem that can deliver this ‘transformation’. This is coming through apps, technology, different value propositions built into a platform of offerings that combine through your mobile device.

Another example is how Autodesk and Adobe are building the environment for others to join, build and participate within. The focus is on rapid prototyping in collaborative environments. They are offering one-stop shops where technology, 3D printing, software design, their engineer services can be combined to work on your ideas, all ‘housed’ in one location.

For start-ups, small and medium sized organizations are given even more chances to bring their concepts to life and finding the opportunity to compete with larger organizations through this approach. They are helping you to bring your prototypes to life and create real functional end-use parts with additive manufacturing, production processes and software applications.

For instance Autodesk facilities at Pier 9, in San Francisco includes: a cutting edge digital fabrication lab, a woodworking shop, a metalworking shop, a 3D printing lab, laser cutting and printing capabilities, an electronics workshop, a commercial test kitchen, and an industrial sewing center as well as smaller specialty project areas.

In the car industry, consolidation is forcing a collaborative rethink. Sharing core platforms is driving commonality and global flexibility. There is this industry push for more universal regimes to drive down costs, guarantee quality and standardize the production and supply chains, these are cutting across suppliers, extending collaboration between traditional rivals on this need to contain costs and variance and extend global reach, redefining competitive positions closer to customer needs by focusing on distinctive propositions, less on car assembly (since industry reliability has universally risen by applying industry ‘best’ practice for much within the manufacturing and production of cars).

Stepping out is stepping up

Today there is growing realization that thinking ecosystems can allow us to have a new framing of possibilities and offer us different mind-sets that tap into different and diverse relationships, partnerships, alliances and collaborations. This was unthinkable until recently, without the enablers to make these connections through technology and more open platforms where you can come together and collaborate.

The increasing value of participating in ecosystems allows for large and small organizations to create, scale and serve markets in ways unthought-of previously. The ability to interact and co-create in increasingly sophisticated and novel ways opens up new opportunities. These ecosystems form a bond of shared interest, of recognition and purpose which quickly becomes established as the new ‘commons’ in sharing and contributing.

Read part two of this article on ecosystems here.

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Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft researches and works across innovation, looking to develop novel innovation solutions and frameworks where appropriate. He provides possible answers to many issues associated with innov