Customers expect ever more added value and keener prices. Products and services are becoming a commodity on a huge scale. What’s more, technology is changing so quickly, with such big side effects for the whole of society, that the effect is compared to a tsunami hitting human existence. As a result, competition between companies is often not sufficient as a driving force for innovation.
In this new world, companies are therefore increasingly opting to work together to create unique added value. Cooperation is frequently sought between complementary companies, but sometimes between competitors, as well. One striking example of successful co-creation between direct competitors is the Sony-Samsung case. In 2004, Sony Corp. began cooperating with its biggest rival, Samsung Electronics, to develop and produce LCD screens for flat-screen televisions together. This close cooperation led to the immensely popular ‘Bravia’ from Sony and ‘Bordeaux’ from Samsung. The combined market share of both companies doubled.
A more recent example is the current cooperation between Ford, Toyota and Suzuki, which are developing new standards in vehicle telematics. They aim to offer a universal alternative to Google’s Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay. These companies have understood that fast-changing technology, shorter product lifecycles and sky-high research & development costs can ruin an isolated company. Cooperation makes apparently insurmountable challenges suddenly feasible.
Cooperation offers advantages, but how do you make contact with suitable companies? Networking events and seminars are perfect for this. For international networks you can go to the Enterprise Europe Network (www.enterpriseeuropevlaanderen.be). This was set up specifically to assist SMEs with international trade and innovation. It brings together over 600 organizations in 60 countries and, thanks to intensive mutual contacts, can quickly find just the right partner company for you. Finally: don’t gaze blindly at the assets of a company on paper. Take the time you need to talk to potential candidates on several occasions. After all, for successful co-creation, it is not only important for all partners to benefit from the cooperation. Things must click between them, too.
The five laws of co-creation