Crowdsourcing with the Competition: Rewarding Venture or Precarious Proposition?

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Why your company needs to think about crowdsourcing with the competition…

“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” While not the original intent, many CEOs today would agree that this wisdom could be applied to relationships in the contemporary business world. Truly, the business world is getting smaller every day: drop shipping is giving the little guys an edge on big name brands, e-commerce is allowing local stores to expand their reach across oceans, and disruptive technologies such as 3D printing are making us re-think the boundaries of what we previously thought was possible.

Understandably, the increase in competition and market saturation is seen by those who experience it as a direct threat to their organizational legitimacy. However instead of being cowed by this threat, some companies are fighting back in very interesting and innovative ways. In fact, a number of organizations are now making the unconventional decision to collaborate with the very same people who are threatening them: their competitors.

Read on to discover why forward-thinking companies are collaborating with the competition and to decide whether this is something your company should also be considering.

Sleeping With the Enemy

crowdsource_collaboration_enemy_400pxWhile it may seem counterintuitive, collaborating with your rivals actually makes sense. Tesla and Toyota for example opened their patent books to the competition back in 2015 to help accelerate innovation around fuel cells. If the competition has an expert in the field, why wouldn’t you want to work together to achieve mutually-beneficial results more quickly? Here’s how the theory works:

Shared problems are solved faster and more efficiently when businesses/people sharing the same challenges tackle the problem together. In 2016, a small Detroit community illustrated this point beautifully: The city of Hamtramck left no money in the budget for road repairs, and residents were facing a bumpy year ahead. So several of the townspeople got together, hired a contractor, and volunteered to fill the many potholes that were plaguing their community. Together, these individuals solved a shared problem that on their own never would have been worked out.

The same concept can be applied to business, and the benefits are clear:

  • Accomplish more by combining strengths and knowledge, and giving the problem a look from a new angle (i.e. Two heads are better than one.)
  • Access additional resources
  • Work with competitors to earn points that can be traded in for favors later on down the line
  • Gain more from teaching someone about a subject than you will from learning it on your own. Reaching out to the competition, even if you have to walk them through certain things, can help you gain more depth and understanding in your own work

What’s more, collaboration on this level is beneficial for society as a whole. If leading car companies work together and discover a new clean and affordable fuel consumption technology, the whole planet could benefit. The benefits of crowdsourcing are even more clear in the medical and pharmaceutical industry where breakthroughs could save lives. For example, the non-profit organization Pistoia Alliance launched an Open Innovation platform with Qmarkets in 2014 which facilitates ideation, collaboration, and problem solving between a host of leading companies who would usually be considered competitors.

The Art of a Format War

crowdsource_collaboration_format_war_400pxSometimes when two or more opposing business models are launched into a single market, a format war will break out. Relevant companies must choose a side in this situation, but it’s imperative that they choose the right side, because when a certain format reaches a critical mass of popularity, the other format becomes obsolete, along with any company which built a business model around it. This paradigm has repeated itself many times throughout history: think VHS vs. Betamax or video game cartridge vs. discs.

The same pattern occurs in each format war. The stronger side wins. Note that we didn’t say the stronger company, brand, or product won, but the stronger side. Here you’ll find another benefit to collaborating with your competitors: strength in numbers. In the tech industry in particular, but in many other fields as well, format wars are constantly raging. And while you’re competing with one another on the regular playing field, everyone shares a common technology, methodology, or business model. If you want your business model to win, you’ll need the strength of many companies collaborating together to overcome the opposition. This level of competition is of-course great for consumers, as the two sides seek their custom by desperately innovating to improve the customer journey and experience.

Legitimate Risk Factors

 Of course, there are well-founded concerns too. Structuring your collaboration, maintaining respect for different opinions, and discerning who can be trusted are tricky tasks that many businesses aren’t equipped to handle. There is less autonomy when working together, and time and resources must be devoted to this “side project.”

With two sides to the collaboration coin, organizations need a professional to help orchestrate, guide, and manage these group efforts so they can be successful and profitable for everyone involved. The question is how. The answer is technology.

Cracking the Collaboration Code

You need to choose competitors with complementary characteristics and shared visions when choosing who you want to team up with. Appreciating the efficacy and necessity of working together with like-minded competition is one thing, but actually finding companies who fit that criteria is another matter, and then collaborating with them and ensuring that you maintain an equal relationship is even harder. Luckily Qmarkets has a three step solution to facilitating this mission from end-to-end.

  1. Identifying your opportunities: Q-scout

    crowdsource_collaboration_q_scoutThis software platform is designed to facilitate a variety of corporate scouting initiatives, from identifying new cutting edge technologies, to start-ups, to potential partnerships. However, the structure of this system is also ideal for identifying and managing potential opportunities for collaboration with competitors. You could either assign a small team to focus concerted effort on this objective, or open participation to your whole organization and evaluate suggestions from all employees.
  1. Where the fun begins: Q-open 

    crowdsource_collaboration_q_openQ-open is Qmarkets’ specially designed platform for external crowdsourcing and open innovation. Already used by leading organizations such as Total, Nestle, and more, it allows you to create a full-scale idea management system for engaging users who are external to your company. This could be perfect for engaging competitors, however some companies might prefer to create a subsystem of an internal platform for external collaboration, where information is more sensitive.

  1. Securing your intellectual property: Q-patent 

    crowdsource_collaboration_q_patentThis brand new solution allows you to manage the patent approval and submission process from end-to-end, ensuring that the value you generate through crowdsourcing is secured legally as swiftly as possible. The system can also be potentially configured to facilitate a joint-patent request, ensuring equal recognition for both yourself and your partners/competitors.

So, if you are interested in collaborating and innovating with your competition, Qmarkets is the company which has the dedicated tools to allow you to complete the job.

However, if you (or your company) is not quite brave enough to invest in such a cutting-edge initiative, you should at least be using the collective intelligence of your internal audience to fuel innovation at your company. In this regard, Qmarkets’ award winning solutions are again unmatched on today’s market landscape, with a full suite of solutions to suit every challenge.

Speak to a member of the Qmarkets team today or request a live product demonstration to understand how collective intelligence could transform ideas into results for your company!

 

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