Organizing for innovationProfessional Services

Innovating in Collaboration

How convenient would it be to have someone else innovate on your behalf? You identify the issue that needs to be resolved or addressed, and someone else will do the work and come up with a new product or service that will do exactly what you asked for. Then you only have to … Well, what parts of the process would you still be responsible for? 

More than you think

While collaborating with others, which parts will you still have to do yourself? Unfortunately, you probably have to do more than you envision in the above scenario. Innovation is a process that consists of idea generation, development, and implementation, which needs to be monitored. Organizational support is also required to execute each of these steps, as approvals and funding are usually needed to address the issue at hand. Who will manage all the pieces?

Organizational support

In the above scenario, you, as champion of the innovation, will first have to obtain approval to address the issue. In addition, especially when you plan to collaborate with external parties to find and develop the best solution, you will have to come up with sufficient funds to support the work of your collaborators. Collaborators, especially contractors, don’t work for free.

Idea generation

In the idea generation or brainstorming phase, you can certainly have others come up with solutions on your behalf. That may work better than doing it yourself. If you have to come up with the solution internally, you will probably come up with one that works given the means at your disposal. If you can have outsiders help you find a solution, you will be choosing from a range of options, especially when you source from a wide spectrum of disciplines for the best one.

However, to determine what that best solution is, you will have to define the criteria the solution needs to satisfy. Doing this will involve work on your part. Coming up with design criteria or engineering requirements is not too difficult, if you have defined the true cause of your problem. However, if the need is not careinternal_externalfully researched, you will probably end up asking for a Band-Aid instead of a solution that stops the bleeding at its source.


Development is the phase where the product or service gets improved upon. Most of that can often be outsourced. However, in professional service firms, the context in which the solution has to work is usually complex. Creating a solution in isolation of this complex context probably won’t work well. As we know from software development, the only way to make sure a solution works in its environment, is to test it frequently and often. This is what is known as agile development. So even during the development phase, you are not off the hook. You will be constantly testing out a new part of the system.


Implementation is the last phase of the innovation. This phase will require more of your involvement than the previous two. How else will you integrate the innovation into your workflow? In addition, when an innovation asks for a novel approach, people have to be motivated to adopt the change, be taught how it works, and be given the tools to adapt the new approach to their needs. You, as the champion, will have to motivate others to adapt and adopt the innovation in the implementation phase, which often takes a lot of time and effort.


Innovation is a lot of work. For most professionals, time is scarce  and innovation is never your full-time job. Your primary responsibility is managing the day-to-day activities.

It is therefore a good idea to collaborate and outsource the work that can be done by others.

But with so much work to be accomplished for each innovation, who in your organization is going to champion the process? Please join us September 25, 2014 for a webinar about “How to Organize for Innovation,” that addresses some of the questions and concerns raised in this blog.

To find out more about organizing your innovation process, please visit our website at come, or contact us via e-mail at info “at” organizing4innovation “dot” com.