Are Innovative Collaboration Tools Necessary for Innovation?
Any company looking to enhance or launch an innovation program is likely to encounter the word “collaboration” so many times that it no longer resembles a word. But is collaboration really that important to success in innovation? Further, does that collaboration need to be supported by its own tools? Or can good old-fashioned workplace comradery get the job done? In the following article, rready explores the necessity of innovative collaboration tools.
What Are Innovative Collaboration Tools?
The phrase “innovative collaboration tools” is broad in meaning. It can be used to describe virtually anything that facilitates collaboration. In this context, innovative collaboration tools are supportive techniques and technologies that encourage open innovation. Some view open innovation as the use of external resources to fuel innovation practices within a company. For example, businesses that crowdsource new product ideas from their consumer base via social media.
In actuality, it starts inside company walls. It’s an alternative method to traditional innovation practices that encourages everyone in the company to participate. In other words, it’s decentralized. Higher-ups in the company shouldn’t be the only ones contributing to innovation. Instead, they must tap into the distributed knowledge of their employees. Once the internal innovation culture has been established, you can move on to external sources.
Technology has changed the way modern businesses do nearly everything. Innovation management is no exception. There are ideas to validate, projects to track, teams to supervise, and feedback to collect. If a corporation expects their innovation manager to do it all with a couple of post-it notes and a calendar, they’d be sorely mistaken. Innovation management platforms typically include communication, workflow, and project management capabilities. Sometimes, these innovative collaboration tools are referred to as “idea management software.”
People use the phrase “innovation management services” to describe a wide range of offerings—consultations, coaching, and technology. In some cases, they may even be referring to all three. In general, these services are meant to work in tandem with a company’s internal resources to support and drive its innovation efforts. While innovative collaboration tools are an integral part of any innovation program, they work best in conjunction with other innovation management services. For more information, check out this comparison of the top innovation management services on the market.
Why Is Collaboration Important in Innovation?
Collaboration fosters innovation better than any other innovation initiative can. Firstly, open innovation helps ease the pressure decision-makers feel. It also improves company culture by tangibly recognizing the value of employee input, regardless of role. Decentralized innovation is more effective than its counterpart for several reasons, a couple of which we’ve outlined in the sections below.
“Crowd wisdom” is one of the four branches of crowdsourcing in innovation. It refers to the notion that a group of people can be collectively smarter than an individual expert. As people build expertise, they gain more and more experiences that influence how they perceive certain situations. In other words, they’re biased. When it comes to innovation, open-mindedness is crucial. Distributed knowledge reduces the impact of bias on decision-making. It’s like the saying goes—two heads are better than one. Except, in this case, it could be hundreds of heads.
Innovative collaboration tools help companies diversify feedback, thus avoiding the echo chamber that many upper-level management departments become. When companies lose touch with their consumers or fail to recognize inefficiencies in business processes, innovation suffers. A famous example of this is the Walt Disney Handwich, or as the Disney C.E.O./inventor of the abomination called it, “the sandwich of the future.” Spoiler alert: it was not the sandwich of the future. It was a bread cone stuffed with various sandwich materials, like ham and cheese, tuna, and B.B.Q. C.E.O. Michael Eisner came up with the Handwich to create food for the parks that would be easier to eat on the go.
As you can imagine, it was messy and much more challenging to eat than a regular sandwich. It often had to be served with a fork, rendering the entire operation moot. Decentralized innovation practices could likely have stopped the Handwich from costing Disney valuable time and resources. Why? Because anyone can see the immediate flaws in the Handwich's design—especially those operating the food stands. But not everyone was willing (or able) to relay that to the C.E.O. Innovative collaboration tools help diversify feedback so innovations like the Handwich can be evaluated through a less biased, more informed lens. Don't go chasin waterfalls, Disney. Just stick to the cute cartoon characters that you're used to.
How Do You Collaborate for Innovation?
The recipe for collaborative innovation goes a little something like this:
- Start with a base of innovation culture - Employee engagement initiatives and innovative techniques like gamification can help your company address its workplace culture.
rready’s KICKBOX tackles innovation culture by providing employees with a physical toolkit to stimulate creativity. It contains a roadmap of the innovation pipeline, a KICKBOOK (A.K.A, an innovator’s handbook,) and company-tailored incentivization—like branded merchandise or employee rewards!
- Add a heaping tablespoon of innovative collaboration tools - Help your employees feel more comfortable getting involved with innovation by collecting their feedback and encouraging them to share ideas.
- Pour in some project management support - Innovation is messy, and the processes surrounding it are largely non-linear. Keep participation high by providing a platform for project members to track progress and organize their thoughts.
rready’s KICKBOX includes idea management and execution software. Not only does it organize projects, but it helps people connect with sponsors and industry experts. Seeing others participate in successful innovation can also inspire employees to develop their own ideas. KICKBOX also fosters cross-corporate collaboration by bringing together employees and innovation managers from big corporations worldwide on regular calls to share challenges and ideas.
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