The Accenture Innovation Summit 2018 (AIA18) has once again made it clear that innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. Nevertheless, there are also parallels to be discovered in the challenges that businesses face regarding innovation, and the possible solutions for these challenges. To a great extent, the key to successful innovation seems to lie in collaboration.

 

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Challenges

The challenges of successful innovation sound familiar to many of us. Many of these challenges are related to the unknown that is inextricably linked to innovation. For example, during the roundtable I hosted, called ‘Robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will lead to business value creation. But what is its impact: Job Destruction or Job Creation?’ a reference was made highlighting the difficulty that shareholders sometimes face as innovation does not always yield instant ROI. Innovative initiatives therefore run the risk of getting trapped in what Geoff Moore has coined in his famous theory as 'the chasm.'

Unfamiliarity with how new technologies can be used in an actual innovative way (as opposed to doing old things in a new way) is another common obstacle to successful innovation. Additionally, the difficulties that many companies still have with reimagining thinking (conceptual thinking about what else might be possible) and the struggle to get accurate, value-free data that is not stuck in a silo are other familiar difficulties.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Because one thing became perfectly clear during AIA18: collaboration can resolve the above obstacles to a large degree.

 

Customer journey

During AIA18 at the ServiceNow stand on the Innovation Playground, a very relevant and inspiring example of how collaboration between companies can create unique value for customers was given. Here, a prominent place was reserved for three customers: ING, NXP and Thales. Based on the customer journey of a visit to an amusement park, insight was given into how the cooperation of ServiceNow with these customers leads to an innovative and improved experience for the end user, the theme park visitor.

This customer journey starts with the public transport trip to the amusement park. The Thales access gates to the subway platform (of which a working copy was available and used in the ServiceNow stand) are continuously monitored on the ServiceNow platform. When a defect occurs, it is automatically reported, so that a maintenance team can take a look. Are multiple gates faulty and is it therefore no longer possible to reach the platform? Then the intelligent, intuitive ServiceNow platform prioritizes the issue with the highest urgency so that it can be solved immediately.

Upon arrival at the amusement park, the visitor looks for the friends he arranged to meet. Thanks to NXP's intelligent transport applications that can find their way autonomously, all the user has to do is indicate his final destination on the ServiceNow platform, and he will be taken to the designated meeting place. Reunited with his friends, it's now time to have a drink together. Payment is done by scanning the ING QR code in the ServiceNow app, where the group can choose between having one person settle the whole amount at once or splitting the bill.

These are all solutions that those companies could not have realized separately. Jean-Philippe de Rek, Managing Director of Thales Transportation Systems, therefore emphasizes the importance of collaborations between companies so they can build on each other’s expertise: "Without the cooperation of ServiceNow, for example, we would have never succeeded in the current transition that we are making from corrective maintenance to preventive and predictive maintenance."

 

Changing roles

Collaboration can also help companies step out of existing thinking patterns and take new directions. Take the financial sector, for example. Peter Hekking, ServiceNow Senior Strategy Consultant specialized in financial services, led a roundtable about the bank of the future and sees that customers expect a different role from their bank than what has been the case for years: "Banks have to get rid of the idea that they are central to the chain and realize that they are actually a service supplier to the chain. In the future, the customer plays the central role in their services rather than the bank itself."

According to Hekking, companies must seek external help if they want to be successful innovators: "Banks basically have all the building blocks for this, but they are still built like a traditional bank. The solution is to break down everything and rebuild it. And of course, this is impossible without collaboration with an external party."

 

Internal

But cooperation does not always have to be sought externally. Even within companies, the links between departments can often be optimized. In my DeepDive at the AIA18 called 'The Future of Work' we discussed how organizations are often still divided into silos (HR, IT, customer service, etc.). As a result, data is also stored in silos. "However, a successful implementation of the onboarding process, for example, requires data from multiple departments. The same applies to ensuring optimal customer service. You want complaints to be handled quickly, even if the answers can only be found in another department."

Limited availability of data is an obstacle to creating a culture in which innovation is stimulated. It prevents information, insights and knowledge from being shared across departments. Teamwork, re-imagining and creativity are the most important skills for success in future work.