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What Does Collaborative Innovation Actually Mean for Small Businesses?

That is the heart and soul of CI_Works. Let’s start with the latter word - Innovation – that is easy – to change and adapt approaches, practices and products to current market conditions and to meet your customers’ changing needs e.g. sustainability focused. Who ever wants to produce products that nobody needs or wants to touch or consume? Such is the plight of thousands of businesses that didn’t continually solicit customers’ feedback. GET LEAN!

The ability to change and pivot is easier for small businesses than for large companies where a change of direction is much more complex – like an aircraft carrier in a bath tub.

Collaboration is more complicated because it involves multiple parties that may never have connected previously. It is about working together to leverage different skills / strengths for a common result. This is extremely difficult for many start-ups from universities and incubators because nobody teaches collaboration there – rather they are taught to ‘do it yourself’ and to protect intellectual property in their business plans. These are noble pursuits, unless you really want to take a product to market that customers actually want and need. Doing it your own way often lacks that market and customer input because you are so busy protecting your’ or your sponsors’ interests that you become paranoid about sharing and soliciting information. If you want to be a researcher – do research in the private sector; but entrepreneurs need to be active in the market.

Collaborating with partners means combining the expertise of the many and working together to get a product to market. It allows the entrepreneur to focus on his / her core competency and surrounding herself with experts that complement that individual strength with their strengths. It has been said that ‘ it takes an army’. But, unfortunately it does…look at the key strengths of successful companies and you see expertise in engineering, but also in the marketing and sales, materials and production, and how to use current and relevant tooling to get noticed in the broadest market(s). Assemble your army cost effectively and work together to win the battle. Use partners initially to assemble that army and speed your time to market, relevence of products / services, and market awareness.

At CI_Works, we have assembled that collaborative spirit and identified willing companies, resulting in shared successes and opportunities.

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