Partnership and Innovation

Paul Dolman Darrall recently tweeted an blog post by David Erdal where he asks the question “Are we peasants or partners?” where he talks a bit about ownership and partnership. If we wade through his political views, he does actually have something interesting to say about where the puck is going and why that is a good thing.

A partner is a player in the game, with full rights to be informed, to influence what goes on, and to share in the wealth we all create together.
There is overwhelming evidence from many countries that [employee owned] businesses do extraordinarily well: they are more productive, they grow faster, they create more jobs, their jobs are more stable, they share the wealth out more evenly. And because they are participative and democratic, they are great places to work.

The truth is, in the modern economy the scarce thing – the resource that is most difficult to find, keep and grow – is people. Capital is not scarce. People are. This is especially true for organisations where it is people who have a direct relationship with customers. Even for organisations where the customer interacts with a product or service (increasingly via software) – it is still people who are driving innovation, keeping you moving forward.

(As an aside: Senior Managers who don’t recognise and adapt to this reality are going to really struggle in the modern economy. It’s the Owners who have the most to lose though. The ones who don’t quickly grasp the shift that is taking place may well find that they hold all of the equity and control, but that the real value-adding part of the organisation will have walked out the door.)

The same principle applies within our innovation systems though. Organisations who treat their I.T. as an order taker struggle to get the buy-in and ownership needed to get the best out of their people. It’s even worse when their software development teams are outsourced and offshored. When working in these organisations a large part of the effort to improve the way they work is to get these different parts to work together. We have used the metaphor of a three-person bicycle to visualise how each of these parts need to work together, pushing together and going in the same direction.

Communicating the Cost of Delay can a key part of this – and in a small way speaks to the “full rights to be informed” that Erdal talks about. If everyone involved in the innovation process have a shared understanding of the value and urgency of solving the problem you’re more likely to all work together, collaborate and “own” both the problem and quickly swarm around potential solutions.