This is the 2nd article on my series of ideas for Business Development
When it comes to searching for new ideas for product/service innovation, most organisations look to the customer side of the value chain. There are truck load of publications and methodologies like Outcome Driven Innovation, Customer Driven Innovation etc that can help you to uncover value creation opportunities from the customer side. These methodologies work very well when you have decent funds allocated for Research and Development.
However, most organisations don't have the luxury of big R&D budgets. So in my view, you are better off to look at the supply side of the value chain, and building a reputation as The Lead Customer/Innovation Partner to your current and potential suppliers.
So how can you do this?
1. Rather than looking to your big suppliers, start a conversation with the niche players in your community. Make sure you look outside the current supplier base to get some fresh eyes and ideas.
2. Invest time to develop relationships and trust with them, so they will see the value of sharing their ideas with you. Most small companies hesitate to do this, because the fear that the customer will take their idea and get one of the bigger suppliers to execute it.
3. When a niche supplier comes to you with an idea, respond to it promptly. If you are not interested, tell them as soon as possible. Take time to give honest feedback ... value them as much as you value your bigger supplier relationships.
4. When you identify a valuable idea, make it easy for the niche supplier to engage with you. ie don't expect them to meet the same standards of documentation & track record as your bigger suppliers. Look at their strengths, and find creative ways to manage their weaknesses.
5. Build a co-creation mindset. For example, if the supplier comes up with an idea that looks promising but not 100% suitable in its current state, using the knowledge you have about your customer base; work with them to co-create the ideal solution.
Remember, regardless of how smart your internal team is, there are heaps more smarter people in your supply side. Leaning how to win their trust and co-creating new-to-the-world products and services, is an extremely effective way to build your innovation capability and contribute to your local innovation eco-system.