Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Releasing innovation by involving your customers

by James Brain

It is slowly becoming a given that a collaborative and cooperative mindset and culture are essential to team performance and organisational creativity. Perhaps counter-intuitively, even at such places as the investment bank Goldman Sachs where one might expect cut-throat competition to rule.  It is reported that while they compete to recruit the most talented people, the emphasis on the cooperative mindset is so crucial to their value-creating dynamics, they now aggressively screen out those whose tendency is to be individualistic, highly-competitive ‘superstars’.

This is because they know that the capacity for innovation and organisational creativity comes from the creative intelligence and interaction that takes place when their people come together. If the trust, support, respect for differing talents, and a coherent vision is tangible in a group, then the likelihood of passionate engagement and substantial performance gains are dramatically increased. It seems the quality and extent of these cooperative relationships across an organisation are critical for the emergence of ultra-innovative high-performance teams to take place.

But innovation doesn’t lie solely in the comfort of close friends and strong work relationships. Another vital ingredient is also required to truly raise your chances of evolving a ground breaking group. That is to gain the involvement and stimulation of people far outside the group – especially those who are comparative strangers or hold a different worldview or way of thinking. Only with this reaching out across boundaries can you stop the overfamiliar dominating, and harness the significant value that comes from fresh and ‘novel’ combinations of perspectives.

This also applies to the online customer engagement space, as social media continues to transform the nature of relationships with our customers, business partners and public. Forcing us to deal directly with them on their terms or to be ignored.

Through social business design and by employing powerful online participation tools, companies are starting to create deeper and more engaging community based relationships, where customers are treated more like partners than names to be ‘managed’.

So the dynamics are the same: for an effective ‘coming together’ there needs to be trust, mutuality, dialogue and respect. The real opportunity however, could lie in going one step further, by reaching out to those ‘comparative strangers’ by letting customers right into the heart and workings of our organisations, to collaborate and even co-create products and services with us. In doing so this could be inviting in that essential ingredient that helps turn our organisations into creative powerhouses.

 

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