Some Have Entertained Angels Unawares, Edward Clifford (1844-1907) (Source: Wikimedia)
Ideas for Leaders #122

Creating Harmony: Harnessing Stakeholders to Boost Innovation

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Key Concept

Collaborative innovation and co-creation between stakeholders can deliver value for businesses.

Collaborative innovation can be defined as: “Working with others, sharing knowledge and learning, and building consensus to invent something new or create a new way of doing something, with a view to realizing shared goals.”

Benefits include more – and better – ideas, reduced risk, increased quality and speed to market, reduced costs, new skills and resources, an enhanced brand, and the ability to create value for the common good.

Idea Summary

In today’s increasingly competitive and fast-changing global marketplace, businesses must seek to develop more frequent and higher quality innovations. At the same time, customers, employees and other stakeholders are demanding more opportunities to co-create and collaborate with businesses. Stakeholders, who are increasingly informed, connected, networked and empowered, are challenging firms. Customers, for example, are demanding better interactions with businesses and a deeper engagement in the processes that ultimately create value through the delivery of products and services.

Innovating by collaborating with a variety of internal and external stakeholders is not a fad, but a process that will become increasingly ingrained in leading business models. The most successful firms will be those with the highest quality contributors and communities behind their innovation management processes.

Given this increasing need to collaborate, innovate and co-create, businesses need a better understanding of how they can engage in these activities in a way that maximizes the value created for all stakeholders.

Leaders should address a number of areas, including preparing their organization, preparing their people and their partners’ people, and defining and implementing the right approach. 

Business Application

By taking the following steps towards co-creation, leaders can improve their firm’s approach to collaborative innovation, and maximize the potential for value co-creation with stakeholders:

  • Ensure alignment between the collaborating firms’ processes and practices;
  • Check that there is shared vision and values relating to the goal of the collaborative innovation;
  • Make sure that commitment and trust exist between all partners;
  • Develop open, fluid, flexible, dynamic ‘win-win’ business models –models that must, themselves, be subject to continuous collaborative innovation, in the same way that your products, services, and processes should be;
  • Ensure a structure and governance is in place that will support and enable these types of open, fluid business models – that is, a structure and governance that encourages collaboration, teamwork, and co-creation with internal and external partners;
  • Develop engagement platforms for collaborative innovation that put the stakeholder and their experiences at the centre of your innovation process. They must enable listening and learning, while maintaining dialogue, access and transparency;
  • Ensure that appropriate technology tools, and clearly defined, well-understood processes, support all platforms. These must be set up to enable the participants to engage with others in the way that they wish to, as well as allowing participants to benefit from the particular personal, social and/or financial rewards that are motivating them to contribute;
  • Develop a culture that proclaims and recognizes that stakeholder interactions are at the centre of your business;
  • Ensure that top management champions the importance of collaborative innovation;
  • Engage with internal stakeholders first. Collaborative innovation will then be more successful with external stakeholders;
  • Recognize and reward both collaborative and innovative behaviours by employees. This will engage and motivate them, while at the same time making them better equipped to relate and respond to the innovative suggestions of customers, partners, and other stakeholder groups;
  • Engage with external stakeholders and, again, recognize people who are contributing their time and energy to a particular collaborative innovation initiative;
  • Be bold and experiment with different approaches. There are many different models for collaborative innovation, representing varying degrees of openness, control and value integration. The right approach will depend on your particular needs and circumstances, and different approaches may be suitable at different times. Firms that are prepared to take a chance on whether a collaboration will be commercially valuable, will learn and benefit most;
  • Re-evaluate the approaches selected on a regular basis.

Methodology: This report is based on an extensive literature review, along with qualitative interviews with senior managers responsible for, or involved in, collaborative innovation in their firms.

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Idea conceived

  • 2012

Idea posted

  • April 2013

DOI number




How Collaborative Innovation and Co-Creation Can Deliver Value: A Stakeholder Approach. Anne Dibley, Baskin Yenicioglu & Moira Clark. The Henley Centre for Customer Management (2012). The full paper can be obtained via The Henley Centre for Customer Management.

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