Innovation in the Collaborative Economy

Filed Under Innovation

Business Intelligence & Collaboration The Perfect Pair
Arwen Heredia

January 6, 2014

“I believe we are at the start of a collaborative revolution that will be as significant as the industrial revolution.”Rachel Botsman, author

When we talk about innovation — which is a lot — we’re not just discussing a nebulous concept. Or rather, we are, but we’re attempting to put that concept into a framework that both makes sense across organizations and that is applicable to activities that help us achieve business outcomes. It can sometimes feel similar to wrestling a rhino into a mini-van, and then trying to get the rhino to drive.

And despite its inherent risk, the challenge of mechanizing innovation is driving many people to embrace the collaborative economy model. What we’ve seen so far is primarily consumer-based — think AirBnB, TaskRabbit, Lyft, and any number of fledgling businesses reliant on peer review and organic virality. This January, we’re taking a look at how larger organizations could very well benefit from actively participating in sharing-based business interactions, even at the expense of total stability.

Better Results, Bigger ROI

Most industries have been collectively addressing the problem of geographical disparity for at least a decade, and myriad technological solutions have sprouted up because of it. But somehow, the ability to access talent and employees globally hasn’t made quite the impact across corporate cultures that it has the potential to. There’s still a clinging expectation of traditional hiring, retention, and engagement practices internally, which makes the idea of external, widespread collaboration (especially in the B2B arena) pretty close to a pipe dream for many companies. But, if every business treated the talent pool like it was actually accessible to them — which technically, it can be — the possibilities for refining goals, tapping emerging markets, and having the best people on-hand to support your efforts are exponentially greater than when limiting the majority of the business to specific regions.

Says FastCompany’s Stew Langille, “The collaborative economy, and the marketplaces through which it runs, help solve this problem by aggregating thousands of potential matches in one, central online location. Working online eliminates geographic concerns and places the emphasis squarely on achieving the ideal fit. Marketplaces employ advanced algorithms to help filter vast amounts of information so that each individual can find the best match possible, regardless of how much they know about the market. Additionally, smart-matching technologies give customers the ability to search through a potential vendor’s history, making viewing past work, reviews, and other critical information fast and easy.”

The point? Don’t stand in your own way simply because spreading out might require more active management. Better talent = greater innovation, better results, and in the end, bigger returns.

The Eradication of Common Pain Points

Perhaps best of all is what joining the collaborative economy can do to alleviate highly common business pain points. Specifically, driving efficiency, boosting cost-effectiveness, and innovating for competitive advantage. For example:

  • Lower Costs, Higher Value. The collaborative economy supports the idea that we can access marketplaces comprised of different types of expertise. Rather than looking for great copywriters in a restricted location, businesses can seek out the best copywriters from unlimited locations. Marketplaces allow people to focus on their projects more effectively, which means they can do more, faster, and at a much lower cost. Says Langille, “This filters directly back to the brand who pays less for the project while also cutting down dramatically on their search time.”
  • Greater Output and GTM Rates. Getting your products or services to consumers before the competition does is a critical goal for most companies, especially those with a singular focus on growth. Within the collaborative economy, value is king, but maximized efficiency is a natural byproduct. Joining forces with consumers, freelancers, and agencies that are ready to meet your needs right away takes the pressure off of full-time team members who need to focus on strategy rather than task-management. You get your stuff out faster, all the while making use of truly valuable resources.
  • Innovation Takes Center Stage. Speaking of strategy and resources: innovation is today’s key differential for companies that want to stay in the game, and maintain their place in the market a decade from now. By reducing the time and money that’s typically spent on gathering resources and executing projects, organizations can become laser-focused on gleaning ideas and building a culture of innovation that reaches every corner of the business.

Most important for any enterprise that wishes to dabble in the sharing economy are the benefits of being able to execute initiatives, particularly innovation, at scale, cost-effectively and efficiently, and with minimal time devoted to changing processes. Though it’s evident that the collaborative economy is gaining traction in startup culture, it may be awhile before enterprise-level organizations take the plunge — but when they do, it’s certain to be nothing short of revolutionary.