Strategic Partnerships: Working for Innovation

I know this is restating the obvious in today’s world, but it is so important that it deserves restatement: “The only thing constant is change.”  This concept is attributed to the ancient Greek, Heraclitus, not some recent management guru, but it is increasingly important in a world when that pace of change has accelerated.  This reality of constant change creates an imperative for continuous innovation.  One avenue for innovation can be through identifying and forming strategic partnerships.

Strategic partnerships are like any meaningful relationship.  Like any relationship, to be effective, partnerships take work.  A good article about rethinking talent that included partnerships as a means to consider, noted the following, “To be effective, these relationships (partnerships used as an extension of talent for a company) have to be cultivated, monitored and deepened.  Partnerships can no longer be treated as mere supply relationships, but extensions of the talent ecosystem.”

So how might you incorporate strategic partnerships as a means to innovation for your offer?  When you have completed the exercise of asking yourself about what might be missing from your offer (from your customers’ perspectives), you may realize that a partnership or alliance could be beneficial to consider for augmenting your current offer.  A partnership, well selected and crafted and nurtured for beneficial win/win can be helpful to:

  • Fill skills and talent gaps;
  • Deliver elements necessary to form a more comprehensive solution (from the customer’s point of view);
  • Deliver complimentary elements or expertise or relationships that make an offer more useful for a vertical application;
  • Extend the viability of your offer with better geographic or cultural expertise and coverage;
  • Improve your product through better more mutually beneficial supplier relationships;
  • Speed up the time that you can bring your product to market;

Because the only constant is change, these partnerships may serve a purpose during a specific period of time or be of a nature that spans the lifeline of a product or offer.  A red flag, however, is to not frame a plan around a partnership when it is just all about you.  A key mistake is to believe you are in a “partnership” when in reality you simply want to use the other partner to your gain, if it is all about you and ignores the concept of a win / win for the partner, it is probably not going to yield long term incremental value to you or to your end customers.

As shared in previous posts, any of these explorations into potential areas for innovation or evolution really start with understanding who the customer is that you aspire to capture and even more importantly understanding what they care about.  Have you tried to partner strategically in the past in your company?  Did you know explicitly why you believed the partnership would benefit your customers?  Are there areas you could consider partnerships to support continuous innovation?

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