Innovation is getting increasingly essential for any organization in this competitive world.
Innovation is defined as renewing and changing the ways of doing things or creating new products or services that has an influence upon the way an organization operates (Clegg et al., 2011).
Collaboration means to work with two or more parties to do a task and to achieve a common goal (Business Dictionary, 2013). It can be referred to the cooperation of employees within an organization or the partnership of different organizations or even countries.
Collaboration for innovation is an open innovative strategy that allows a group of people or a team to create new ideas through working together to accomplish a task that will make an impact on its organization or even its nation.
View chart at source
Chart 1: National and international collaboration on innovation by firms, 2006-2008
Source: OCED 2011 OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard (2011)
Chart 1 shows the ranking of collaboration for innovation in businesses in different countries. Some of the rankings in the chart might surprise you. For example, innovative firms in Australia can be seen ranking very poorly compared to other countries (Australian Innovation System Report, 2012). Therefore, if Australia wants to improve its living standards and increase competitiveness within this global economy, innovation is vital.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaboration for Innovation
Collaboration for innovation can help promote better division of labor. When a task is divided within a group, each member will have a smaller workload compared to doing it individually. When people from different backgrounds come together as a group to innovate, they all possess different skills and techniques which allow them to complement each other’s deficiency.
Collaborative innovation on the other hand is more likely to create conflicts. Due to the diverse workforce, team members may have differences in their working styles. If team members are just arguing about the ways each of them approaches a task instead of actually working on it, progress will be held up.
Innovation through working together will foster a flow of creative ideas (Gopalakrishnan, 2012). For example, when a group of ten people are collaborating for innovation, ten ideas will be generated if each of person is asked to think of an idea at the same time. Tasks can be completed within a shorter time period which results in an increase in productivity. The collection of a variety of approaches and ideas can promote innovative results which in turn escalate the visibility and quality of products and services.
Conversely, too many ideas will result in an overflow of fake leaders and can make things more complicated. When a collaborative group is formed to innovate, each of them will think their ideas are the best. Being unwilling to recognize other’s thoughts, no one will compromise, which creates tension among the group. This will cause a failure and will overthrow the original intention of collaboration for innovation. Therefore, it is important to manage both the innovation and the team who collaborates for innovation.
Managing Collaboration for Innovation Case Study
Ericsson is a provider of telecommunications equipment and services to mobile and fixed network operators. According to Microsoft Corporation (2013), the CEO of Ericsson recognized a broader need for innovation, including innovation in services, business model, and organizational and process innovation. Therefore he developed a new vision, that is “innovate everyday”. He thinks that innovation is part of all employees’ jobs in the organization. Hence, Ericsson establishes the use of “IdeaBoxes” which engage all their employees (Karlsson, 2011). People can submit their ideas to one or more boxes. All ideas are open for everyone to see, and people can give comments on them as well as simply giving them a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”.
This idea of collaboration for innovation in Ericsson allows employees to showcase their ideas, possibly having these ideas implemented and giving them opportunities to be acknowledged by peers and managers. This not only can enhance job satisfaction rates but also creates competitions among employees. Since ideas are open for everyone to appreciate and to critique, employees are motivated to think of more brilliant innovative ideas, which benefits the organization.
This method of idea management engages over 25,000 employees from all of Ericsson’s business units contributing ideas and comments, from junior positions to senior positions. A survey conducted with innovation managers shows that 70% of them considered “IdeaBoxes” as a key for the success of their innovation initiatives.
Application of Collaborative Innovation within Organizations
To better understand the application of collaboration for innovation at an organizational and national level let’s take a look at a case study of innovation through the collaboration between Intel and IBM.
IBM, as one of the world’s biggest IT companies, is striving to provide their customers with the best technologies that support their mission-critical activities while staying within budget. Intel Corporation is a multinational semiconductor chip maker. The partnership between IBM and Intel has successful created Intel® Xeon® processors 5500 and 5600 series which maximize their customers’ computing capacbilities. The director of the server system of IBM claimed that, “We have a long-standing and fruitful relationship with Intel so it made sense for us to include the latest Intel® processor technologies in this product” (Intel Corporation, 2010, p. 2).
Collaboration for Innovation is Vital for Businesses to Stay Competitive
Based on the case studies and examples discussed above, it is clear that collaboration for innovation is an important tool which brings competitive advantages to organizations. Since changes are needed for an organization to stay competitive, innovation today is not limited to the research and development team but extends to the whole organization.
Being able to properly manage collaborative innovation is an important mission for a successful organization. By developing explicit strategies for collaboration, innovations can drive organizational changes that enable them to identify and exploit new business opportunities. Consequently, in order to possess competitive advantages within the market, organizations need to adopt the use of collaboration for innovation.
- Australian Department of Industry Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, 2013, “Chapter 5. Links and collaboration”, in, Australian Innovation System Report – 2012, Australian Government, pp. 64-82.
- Business Dictionary, 2013, “Definition for collaboration”, viewed 5 November 2013,
- Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T., 2011., Managing and organizations: An introduction to theory and practice, Sage.
- European Commission, 2013, “ The Euro”, viewed 5 November 2013,
- Gopalakrishnan, P., 2012, “Foster a culture of collaborative innovation”, viewed 3 November 2013,
- Intel Corporation, 2010, “Innovation through Collaboration”, viewed 2 November 2013,
- Karlsson, M., 2011, “Everyone Innovates Everday – Collaborative Idea Management at Ericsson, viewed 5 November 2013,
- Microsoft Corporation, 2013, “ Best Practices for Innovation: Microsoft’s Innovation Management Framework”, viewed 5 November 2013,
- University of Waterloo, n.d., “Teamwork skills: being an effective group member”, viewed 7 November 2013
About the Author
Chan Wing San Cindy is a second year student at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia studying for her Bachelor of Arts in Organisational Learning.
Coming from the collaboration space, one of the most important factors in establishing a collaborative environment is to create a system where the internal politics (performance review and compensation) do not work against fostering collaboration. One might considered doing away with individual performance appraisals in the traditional sense and relay on results of group appraisals.