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3 min read

Truly innovative solutions materialise via experience and expertise, many times from a variety of different sources – sometimes, those inputs are from in-house minds, other times from external ones.


Here, our Global Head of Innovation, Joe Dunleavy, highlights the virtues of joint innovation initiatives and how to effectively implement them.


First things first, how would you define co-innovation and open innovation?


JD: I see co-innovation as part of the broader area of open innovation. Open innovation is basically innovating outside your own four walls with external influences such as academic partners, suppliers in your network or, for example, doing a hack event with your local university.


How would you compare open innovation to in-house innovation? What would you say are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each one?


JD: One of the obvious disadvantages of innovating purely internally is the risk of groupthink. Another is if your cultural hierarchy puts a lot of weight into your most senior people’s opinions, other employees might choose not to provide an alternative solution. This can narrow the innovation focus or ideas, which is why innovating with others from outside your own firm can help avoid this.


Now, on the flip side, innovating inside your company can only make it easier for you to innovate at speed because the people inside your company know your structure and what’s going to work better than an outsider will. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. It really depends on what you’re trying to innovate on, the focus and the use case.


Why do you think it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page as a like-minded innovation partner?


JD: It’s certainly easier when you’re aligned on culture and viewpoint. The nice part, though, about having an external partner involved is that it can help infuse the process with energy. Partners may also bring different skills and insights to the table that you may not have inside your company. We co-hosted a hackathon with Microsoft back in December that allowed them to showcase new technology in the generative AI space that we didn’t yet have any expertise on inside Endava.


We used a hack innovation approach to train several people on the new and exciting Semantic Kernel technology, which would have been much harder without our partner. Plus, when you co-innovate with a partner, it may also raise your company’s brand awareness and broaden its reach.


What do you think are some must-haves innovation partners need to agree on before going forward?


JD: They both should buy into a shared understanding and agree on the reason they are innovating. In other words, what problem are you trying to solve together? For example, if you partner with a company that sees little value in generative AI, and that is the focus of your event, it is not something you want to discover too late in an innovation project.


Technology is one of Endava’s main outputs, but human connections are really critical to partnerships, especially in terms of communication. On what level can effective, personalised human communication amplify a co-innovation partnership?


JD: I think it’s absolutely critical. Communication is key to any success in business, whether that is a new partnership or the delivery of a new project; collaboration and communication are both critical. And if you think about it from a partnership or co-innovation perspective, they are the foundations that the rest are built upon.


Everything we do from an innovation perspective should be human-centred. You have got frameworks and methodologies available. With design thinking, there are things like persona development and customer journey mapping that help you empathise with the people you’re trying to target. It’s the same when it comes to your innovation efforts. If you’re going to work with a partner, you must have strong and open communication.


What makes Endava an effective innovation partner for current and future clients?


JD: We’re a very people-centred organisation, and I think we live that as an organisation. People like to interact with other people and companies that embody that value because it certainly helps from a relationship-building perspective.


That also helps when it comes to innovation, which is not easy to do. You’ll hit bumps in the road, and you’ll want to partner with people who keep you honest, tell you if something isn’t a good idea and present more thoughtful ways to approach the solution. We are serious about what we do, and we deliver high-quality outputs, but we do it in a very human way – and I think that is a real differentiator for us.


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