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The two most important things in any company do not appear in its balance sheet: its reputation and its people.Henry Ford

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Achieve success with extended collaborations

Achieve success with extended collaborations

Some innovations cannot stem from a single enterprise. In domains such as radical innovation or sustainable development, the concerted mobilization of numerous actors may be necessary. How can you successfully implement such extended collaboration?


Some innovations or initiatives can only succeed by mobilizing an entire sector of activity or value chain. That is what Alcoa realized, for example, in its efforts to improve the recycling rate of waste. For years, this American leader in aluminum production only achieved marginal improvements. Realizing this, it started an initiative through an extended cooperation in 2012 named AAR (Action to Accelerate Recycling). This aimed to mobilize the entire chain of the players necessary to recycle successfully: manufacturing organizations, the food industry, NGOs and public sector representatives involved in consumer education. Through this multi-player approach, it succeeded in driving a real change.

An increasing number of challenges today require that such extended collaborations are put in place. As per Alcoa’s example, it is the case when the enterprise must rally the players in its value chain to optimize its environmental impact. Also true is when it aims for advances that require collaborative innovation, for example, when an entire production ecosystem explores the blockchain potential. Another case is when it wants to put in place a Big Data approach that relies on large-scale data sharing.

Yet, managing to mobilize multiple players with a high level of ambition is not obvious. Beyond the inherent difficulties in any alliance management, one must also lead an innovation process involving a wide diversity of participants. Returns of experience highlight three principles of action:

- Do not merely define a shared vision: you must also ensure you update it regularly to prevent a high risk of desynchronization between the actors.

- Only broaden your group of partners progressively, to avoid the risk of paralysis due to an excess of decision makers.

- Take deliberate measures to overcome the inevitable risks of misunderstanding associated with the cultural differences of the actors.

Synopsis n.254b