The world has never been more connected, and there’s never been a better opportunity for co-innovation, co-development, co-marketing, and even co-funding.
The time is right for the co-economy—a trend that is reshaping how we work, live, and conduct business.
Granted, some aspects of the co-economy have been around for years. I remember the idea of “co-opetition” surfacing back in the 1990s, for example. But now the co-economy is going mainstream, changing our fundamental assumptions about how to get things done. It is redefining how companies build products, culture, and processes. It is redefining employee skill sets and how we measure their success. It is redefining business relationships—changing how we thing about who is the vendor, who is the customer, and who is the partner.
The co-economy is happening now, in a big way.
Over the past few months, I’ve been focusing on co-innovation and co-development in this blog series, exploding the myth of the lone inventor, and exploring why this trend is happening now. I’ve talked about the dos and don’ts of co-innovation, which can set the stage for success or doom a project to failure. I’ve also talked with customers, partners, and startups about their co-innovation experiences and lessons learned.
Gone are the days when customers provided input into the product requirement document then faded into the background until the beta test stage. Today, customers want to be partners in solving their own business problems. The co-economy requires different skills, behaviors, and business processes. And that is having a ripple effect on employees, companies, and industries.
Employees need more than technical know-how and business acumen to be successful in the co-economy. They need to be able to collaborate in virtual teams. They need to be able to work across organizational boundaries to contribute to open-source efforts and new standards bodies. Creativity and “EQ”—emotional quotient – are becoming more important factors in hiring and promoting employees who can work in this new “co-environment.”
For companies, the skills required to navigate the co-economy are even more complex. The new co-development models are customer-centric—and it’s not just customers’ IT departments that are looking to co-innovate. Lines of business also want to partner on solutions that deliver specific business outcomes. So vendors need to form ecosystems of partnerships focused on a customer’s business challenges—not their own technical offerings. No one company can do it alone. We need to co-innovate with customers, other vendors, and startups—each bringing our own skills, expertise, and relationships to the table. When the customer is at the center, the whole ecosystem benefits.
Entire industries are also being reshaped by the co-economy. Developing a game-changing innovation like the self-driving car blurs the lines between manufacturing, transportation and technology. These industries used to exist in separate universes, but now they are chasing the same pools of talent to work on different sides of the same innovation effort.
Now is the time to embrace co-innovation. You can start by becoming the co-economy champion in your organization. Work to change processes and culture around co-development. Dismantle silos and develop strong ecosystems of partners who can complement your organization’s strengths.
And lay to rest, once and for all, the “not-invented-here” mentality. Companies that work in isolation, focused on one-company, end-to-end solutions are in danger of being out-innovated and out-operated. But those that understand the power of the co-economy will be the new winners.
Begin now. There’s never been a better time to enter the co-economy.