Don’t get me wrong – I am a huge fan of co-innovation ; with my colleagues, business partners, clients, friends, fellow dog trainers etc. A group (at least 2 people) come together, share their resources and experiences, and come out with a product or service or something, that is usually better than what is possible if only one person tries. I am sure all of you have experienced this in some form or other in your every day life, within and outside work.
However, for all the benefits of co-innovation, I run into a bunch of issues that make me scared of doing it “big time”.
Here is a “fictitious” story to set the context. You have a young dog that bites. You don’t want to get rid of the dog since your kid loves the dog too much. So you decide that you need the service of a professional trainer. You also figure that an animal behavior expert might be a good addition to the professional trainer, just to cover all bases. You just want to get the best solution, since you don’t want the dog to ever bite anyone, including your kid.
You get reccomendations from several people, and finalizes on a trainer and an animal behavior expert. You agree to pay them both a certain sum of money for their services.The objective is to stop the dog from biting in 6 months time. You promise to pay the trainer in instalments, based on his successful completion of certain milestones. The behavior expert gets paid by the hour.
The trainer is the best in business, and so is the behavior specialist. In return for solving your problem, they both need good references from you. You have promised to write good things about the trainer on his website, and to allow the behavior specialist to use your “case” as an example in her upcoming book.
The project starts and you sit down with the trainer and the behavior expert to chart out the plan. All three of you agree on the way forward, and then you let them do their job. You are busy with your life, and checks in occassionally to check for progress.
After a while, you sense that not all is well. The behavior expert questions the trainer’s methods – and points out that he didn’t mention some details upfront when every one agreed to the plan. She can cite a lot of cases where his current methods have failed before, and also why it is more of a quick fix and not a long term solution. On the other hand, the trainer argues that his methods will work , and the reason to modify some of the methods was because your dog proved tougher than he originally assesed. Since he is the expert in the group, he just didnt think it is a big deal to let you and the behavior expert know upfront. While these two argue, you mediate – and continue to pay them both. Mind you – the dog still bites, since nothing has been done to solve the original reason for hiring the team !
So you sit down again with the two experts. You agree on a new plan – and realize it will take one year instead of 6 months to get your dog trained. Your kid is too attached to the dog by now, that you feel it is ok to splurge a little more. Hower you don’t want to pay twice as much – so you negotiate a deal with the trainer, to get a discount. The behavior expert decides to show up for only every other session, so that you can stick to your original budget. This time, everything works well – and your dog is now apparently a non-biter. Every one splits their way happy. You pay every one as promised, and also write references.
A year passes by, and guess what – the dog starts growling again. You rush to find the trainer and the behavior expert. Behavior expert is now living in Spain with her new husband, and the trainer is busy training dogs for a movie studio. So – you hire a new team and start over. (or if you prefer a sad ending to the story – say you gave the dog to an animal rescue group or shelter, and drove back home with a kid who will hate you for a really long time ).
I am pretty sure a lot of you (including “cat” and “fish” people ) can relate to this story in some form. We also face this scenario a lot in corporate world. Co-innovation comes in a lot of flavours, and probably not all parties need to be paid in cash to innovate. Nevertheless, as we saw in our little story above – lack of governance can make co-innovation difficult to practice, and impossible to sustain.
In the next blog, let us kick around some ideas on how to make this process better.