I recently ran across the work of Nicolas Bry, senior vice president of Orange’s digital innovation unit, Orange Vallée, who makes some great observations on the role of collaboration in business success. There are several major trends that are converging to yield winning business models. Understanding where these are heading will help us lead our organizations and clients to sustainable futures.

When we combine the internet in everything with the internet of everything, the result is highly innovative and disruptive. This network which interconnects internet powered human participants and internet powered agents and sensors is infinitely more powerful than any creative individual. It is so much more powerful that anyone hoping to build a thriving organization will be at a serious disadvantage without it. 

Unfortunately, tapping into this power is not as simple as observing that the power exists. Bry puts forward the concept of a co-creation platform that, in the process of providing value to customers and vendors, is collecting feedback, usage, and other information to power an innovation operating system. The co-creation platform serves as a platform for collaboration, participation and commerce. 

Apple's iTunes is a good example. It automates commerce between buyers and sellers but it is also the platform upon which usage is collected, feedback is left and all manner of data is observable. 

According to Bry, this co-creation platform is a competitive advantage:

What’s innovative, and what distinguishes successful companies in this type of economy, is their ability to create well-working platforms that enable a wide set of actors to participate.

Conventional hotel chains like Hilton or Intercontinental have built their business over decades by owning and operating hotels. Now, in just a few years, Airbnb has created a service that rivals them in size, by coordinating that a great number of private persons can rent out rooms to others.

The internet of things is going to enable a whole new level of co-creation. Where currently dominant platforms are built upon intentional human interaction, future platforms will integrate human behavior and machine interaction. Bry continues:

This is where Web 3.0 comes on stage, bringing its intelligent agents and multilateral sensors and  its stream of machines talking to machines: in a similar way, innovation has to define  sensors that will collect social contribution, formal (suggestions, feedbacks, expectations, developments, …) and tacit (usage observations, after-sales returns, …),  compile data, extract meaning, and inject it automatically in the [innovation] engine.

Bry quotes several studies that indicate the power the platform can have. A majority of consumers are willing to co-create!

A recent survey by eYeka shows how high peoples’ motivation to be creative is, [including] their willingness to collaborate with brands: a staggering 72,1% of respondents would be willing to co-create with brands if they had the chance to do it. Another Forrester Research found that 61% of all US online adults are willing co-creators.

If you have the platform upon which the internet of things will integrate with willing consumers you have an Innovation Operating System. And, if you do not, you are going to have a hard time staying in the game. Bry continues:

[These inputs] working as an Innovation Operating System, which designs, refines, and enriches its output in a continuous virtuous improvement cycle. Applying Tim O’Reilly's claim to innovation: “building innovations that literally get better the more people use them, harnessing network effects not only to acquire users, but also to learn from them and build on their contributions."

It does not sound like Bry is describing an industrial version of Facebook or Salesforce's Social Enterprise. This Innovation Operating System is unique in that it adds value to all parties by participating. Bry articulately describes the shift in approach as "companies which have been providing solutions to you and for you, will move to solutions created with you and by you. This goes for customized physical products as well as services like healthcare, education, banking or traveling."

It gets you thinking, doesn't it?

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