Multiplying Your Brain Power and Capacity - How to Make Your Suppliers Part of Your Innovation Effort
All industry types have one resource in common; their Suppliers.
Harness Supplier creativity to gain resource creation by:
- Selecting suppliers with different but complementary technologies, aligned with your business priorities. Look for people with in the supplier base that regularly demonstrate thought leadership
- Providing parallel training, with your employees, in I-tools and practices
- Familiarizing suppliers with your markets, consumers and challenges
- Conducting group brainstorming sessions with specific idea submission as the follow-on result.
There are never enough resources to apply to both day-to-day business and the creation of truly innovative solutions to market, customer or business process problems. Suppliers are typically engaged in providing off-the-shelf solutions from their portfolios or a “build to spec or print” solution. They are rarely called upon to take a bigger step into partnering at a broader level. Technology expertise of suppliers my range well beyond your traditional needs and a better solution may reside there without your knowledge.
- Develop innovation ideation skills and deploy multi-supplier sessions to address key market and customer challenges. Identify barriers to solutions and what success would look like if those barriers were removed and challenges were solved.
- Encourage broad ideation toward target elements in open forum and follow-on submission of specific ideas submitted by the suppliers individually or in partnerships.
- Ideas submitted need to identify estimated resources and any capital need to turn the idea into a live project
For group ideation involving a number of suppliers, an open and fair approach to potential I.P. needs to be established and agreed upon at the outset. Allowing suppliers to utilize ideation in other non-competing markets should be encouraged to drive trust and a healthy flow of ideas.
Supplier advocacy within your company adds tremendous value in accelerating ideas to move to the next level.
The process can yield extra resources and brain power by simply employing the extra eyes and brains of members of the supply base. Additionally what may be a somewhat traditional adversarial relationship can be opened up as suppliers see that you are welcoming them to a better understanding of your business and encouraging them to step out the box.
Suppliers get more participative ownership to solution delivery than otherwise in their traditional build-to-print or off-the-shelf portfolio.
Educate/ Encourage and Facilitate / Assure Accountability and Advocacy
- Select suppliers for training in your I-tools and practices; look for participation, creativity and passion during training
- Put a platform in place that allows communication among your procurement team and the suppliers with the right levels of security to make everyone comfortable
- Establish a mutually acceptable and beneficial path towards I.P. that might arise from Innovation Ideation
- Decide which Innovation challenges might best benefit from the views and expertise of external partners
- Identify the potential external technologies that might assist in solution to your challenge and link the technologies to trained suppliers
- Invite suppliers of the identified technologies to a group brainstorming session where the challenges, the barriers to solutions and the images of success are discussed and understood before ideation begins
- Harvest broad ideas from the group and assign the most promising back out to suppliers to develop specific proposals, the focus of which needs to clearly articulate the proposal; the problem being solved in customer terminology; the resources and capital estimates needed to execute the proposed solution