Why we should co-innovate

Business models are changing so fast and so widely that I don’t think there is an industry that isn’t being disrupted. If you aren’t innovating as an organization today, other markets and start-ups are going to eat your market share.

Co-Innovate or risk being forgotten

Today organizations that don’t innovate risk being seen as irrelevant. This is why co-innovation in particular has become such a critical element, as companies realize they just can’t innovate fast enough in a vacuum. So much so that we are seeing innovation ecosystems appear such as universities partnering with suppliers and the setting up of in-house innovation labs.

We as a company have been promoting co-innovation for a long time, but it is only in the past few years that organizations have started to take on a structured approach to the concept. Placing customer and partner co-innovation firmly on the boardroom agenda has much to do with the human aspect of technology.  The development process at Orange applies to both strategic partnerships and individual creativity. Orange Lab, for example, has a co-innovation community of more than 50,000 voluntary testers across France.

The fusion of ideas

It is now almost impossible for companies to develop business solutions in isolation - so cross-fertilization with other industries is imperative. It helps bring new ideas, market knowledge and skillsets to the table. 

We have found it hugely beneficial to co-innovate with clients across industries and apply that learning to other sectors. We carry out the same cross-fertilization with customers, analyzing their specific business challenges, such as getting to market quicker or harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). We work hand-in-hand with customers to create solutions. These can form the basis of new products and services we can sell to other clients. This way we help the customer become a leader, drive the marketplace and share the risk of co-innovation. 

During innovation workshops with a cosmetic ingredient company, for example, we helped them identify new opportunities that would increase efficiencies and productivity.  We are now looking to pilot a smart office project with them to advance employee and visitor usage. It will use innovative technologies, geo-localization, and beacons.

It is also important to understand the latest trends to stay ahead of the game, which is why we invest heavily in innovation. We have scouting teams in Silicon Valley to watch out for emerging technologies and we run innovation labs dedicated to research and development. In Paris we have the Orange Gardens, an eco campus devoted to research and development. Orange Research teams are also active in a number of areas including ambient connectivity, trust and security, data and knowledge and digital society – working on making products more innovative for a changing world.

Do you know when you can fail fast?

There is much hype around ‘fail fast’. But what is actually necessary is agility. The big mistake I see enterprises make is that they attempt to innovate using traditional roadmaps. And that may stretch out for months, or even years. But what they need to do is minimize risk and put a more agile decision making process in place. They should also define their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) up front and implement the adequate governance.

It is essential you know from the beginning how far you want to take the project before you accept it has failed and know what the early indicators of failure are. These indicators are very much dependent on what you want to achieve.

Choose the right partner

Once you have the right mindset established internally, one that understands the importance of collaboration, it is crucial that you seek out the right partner. Remember you are looking to benefit from their experiences, new skills and a shorter time to market, amongst others.

It is also imperative that you have a partner that you can work with on a global scale. If you’re a multinational and create a fantastic innovation in one country, there is little value if you can’t do it in other territories. Your investment in innovation ends up being subscale and very inefficient.

Collaborate to succeed

Sharing knowledge and collaboration are critical, but the big takeaway here is that if you aren’t innovating you are significantly risking your business in the long term.

We are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution which scale and complexity is nothing like humankind has experienced before. Transformation is inevitable. Innovation should be a key part of your enterprise survival kit!

We at Orange Business are here to help you along every step of the way in building an innovation strategy that delivers – one that makes you stronger, more agile and open to creative thinking. Find out more here.
Fabrice de Windt

Fabrice de Windt is Senior Vice President Europe at Orange Business.

With 17 years’ experience in ICT in sales functions, Fabrice’s responsibilities include defining the regional partner strategy, managing presales functions and practices, and ensuring the organization is geared to providing the best customer experience. He is also executive sponsor on key new logo opportunities and existing customers.

Fabrice has held senior positions in sales functions across several companies in the telecom and IT industry.

Fabrice speaks English, Dutch and French fluently and is the proud father of three children. In his spare time Fabrice likes to play tennis and golf.