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Something different for a change: Co-innovation

August 16, 2019 Hermann Hänle

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That’s apparently what Einstein said. It’s not true. But it’s right in essence. Why not depart from the beaten track for once and solve problems with new approaches like co-innovation? What may seem like a new form of insanity is the future of consulting.

The birth of consulting

The year 1886 brought the world not only Carl Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen Nummer 1 – the first car with a combustion engine – but also the world’s first ever consulting firm: Griffin & Little Chemical Engineers. In 1909 it was given its official name: “Arthur D. Little.” Since then, consulting companies have essentially worked according to the same processes. However, cracks are beginning to appear in this stable model as a result of digitalization.

Consulting in flux

Customers expect consultants to have different skills from others. They are looking not for well-dressed theoreticians who will spend sleepless nights generating copious (virtual) amounts of paper, but for practical people who will roll their sleeves up and make innovations palpable within a short period of time. Implementation expertise instead of consultant bullshit bingo. This involves technology and transformation skills, data analysis skills, knowledge of platforms and ecosystems, and a creative way of looking at business innovations.

The consulting project ends not with a slide presentation, but with a testable product or service. Even digitalization. That’s the dream. In reality, even small digitalization projects take months, even though all tools, methods, and technologies are available as ready-made building blocks. A typical stumbling block is complexity, particularly in the case of big companies.

Getting out of the comfort zone

One promising approach is to “get out of the company” – to come up with new rules and ignore processes and limitations for a set time, and focus on thinking of a solution to the needs of stakeholders/customers.  In the ideal scenario, it helps people to be able to work in a different location. This is why innovation hubs are currently springing up everywhere, like toadstools on the damp forest floor. In innovation hubs, collaborative innovation processes can be lived out in new methods such as design thinking. Clients and consultants work hand in hand – equipped with all the materials and tools they need.

“Co” is a must

There is a tiny little syllable that plays an essential role in successful use of an innovation hub: “co.”

Co-innovation opens up a company to other organizations and companies. The partners contribute ideas from different perspectives; these are not just of a technological nature, but ideally cover all relevant aspects of the innovation project. Co-innovation is based on the combination of agile approaches to strategy, design, development, and implementation. With all partners at the table, it doesn’t take time to create a rapid prototype that realizes an entire solution or a new business model.

About the author
Porträt von Hermann Hänle, Senior Manager, Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems

Hermann Hänle

Senior Manager Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems International

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