China Insurance Building (中国保险大厦), Shanghai

I recently returned from China after chairing the 2012 CoDev Asia Conference on Open Innovation, held in Shanghai. CoDev North America is an event that we have had in the U.S. for a number of years, and this was the first year of having the event in, and for, Asia.

Regardless of where it is held, I was able to once again see and confirm first hand that there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all formula for open innovation partnerships.

Companies across diverse industries continue to believe that in order to create value for their customers and consumers, the partnerships and alliances created must have a highly customized strategy — one that is unique to both the culture and current state of one’s business.

At this inaugural Asia event a lot of time was spent dissecting the next-generation “best practices” of working with partner organizations to achieve business goals. I highly recommend that today’s business leaders do this with their colleagues on a regular basis.

Why do we need to learn best practices from each other? One reason is because in order to excel, companies need to continually meet external and internal challenges, and they need to maximize scarce or focused resources in this new economy. By combining core competencies of different businesses, roadblocks can be better illuminated sooner, and better solutions can be delivered faster.

In Shanghai it was exciting to see how some of the world’s top thought leaders and advanced practitioners share candid insights from their own experience in corporations including Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical, Kimberly-Clark Corp., PGI, WD-40 Co., Asia Pulp & Paper, and more. Many of these leaders are achieving much faster results now than they have in the past, thanks to partnering with like-minded companies who have similar goals for growth, and for meeting the needs of their customers.

Regardless of our industry, we all have the same challenges and the same need to adopt a willingness to invest the time in building collaborative relationships and managing key engagement touchpoints, even in — well, especially in — times of slow growth. If you are willing to do this as a standard practice, then regardless of size or industry, you can infuse innovation into your corporate culture and make progress in delivering sustainable growth.

While there is no silver bullet, it is certainly clear that companies can build better capabilities and networks for creating business value by smartly teaming up with strategic partners, rather than going it alone.

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