How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative Collaboration

Drive Strategic Collaboration

Imagine a world where your customers want your organization to succeed. Where your employees are personally committed to your company’s success. Where your organization is not focused only on its own results, but on a collaborative effort that spans a community and beyond.

David Nour’s new book, CO-CREATE: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration, takes these dreams on as he explores ways to drive strategy and innovation. His new work challenges us to think about relationships in a completely different way. I recently asked him about his work and new book.



Co-creation. Share with our audience what it is and why it’s important.

It means collaborating with your most valuable business relationships to transform your business or revenue model. It can drive how you iterate, innovate or disrupt your market and in the process, evolve far beyond anything you could do alone.



You start the book by saying that, “Introspection leads to right action.” What’s the best way to do this?

Real introspection takes three critical elements:

  1. Think Time – Unfortunately, given the hectic pace most of us work these days, we don’t get enough quality think time to set the minutia of the day aside and really consider our relevant strengths and strategic relationships, as well as personal or professional growth opportunities.
  2. An Inner Circle – We need to surround ourselves with fewer, but more authentic and impactful, business relationships. Most of us could dramatically benefit from fewer partnerships and alliances and more thought partners who will tell us what we need to hear.
  3. Leading Drivers – We can’t raise the bar on our intellect, performance, execution and results… if we don’t measure leading drivers of our progress—not lagging indicators of where we’ve been, but predictive insights toward where we’re headed. You can’t win a race looking in the rear view mirror. Focus your energies on the road ahead.


Stay In Tune With Your Customers

Talk about the lens of the customer. Why is this so important? How do you make sure your organization is in tune with the customer?

A lot of leaders say they want customer-centricity or talk about customer experience journeys; I’m just not sure they really know what that means up, down, and across their organization. In particular with those who demonstrate a vested interest in your success, looking at the organization through their eyes is critical in helping leaders evolve the perceived value of his/her organization. It’s critical for every organization to create a dynamic dashboard of leading drivers such as sentiment, social, repute, as well as the breadth and depth of its strategic relationships. Only by creating a baseline and tracking how it trends (abundance or poverty), will an organization really understand, in real-time, its ability to deliver on its brand promise.



You advocate to take the customer journey yourself. Why is this rarely practiced?

For the same reason that we need a reality show for bosses to get out there on the front lines of their organizations in disguise: too many senior execs have become way too comfortable, or perhaps bogged down in the mahogany row. They just don’t do it. The value of the enterprise isn’t on the 50th floor – it’s at the edge of where employees are delivering value to their customers, working closely with their partners on implementation, and wrestling with distribution or post-sale support. Execs often get a very filtered/biased report of what’s really happening! Ed Bastian at Delta Air Lines can send me an email apologizing for leaving a Diamond Medallion (read: enormous loyalty) stranded twice in three days, but I’m betting that’s never happened to him on his airline!



What’s the reverse perspective?

Instead of thinking that customers are our guests, it’s a leadership point of view that we are simply a guest on their journey. A customer’s world doesn’t ever start or end with us; we are but a sliver of all that they must – or perhaps want to – do each day. If more brands adopted this mindset, perhaps they’d become less arrogant with their policies and more embracing of elevating the experience, removing the countless friction points, and co-creating their evolution with their most valuable asset: their strategic relationships. This mindset would also help them better manage all external relationships.


What’s pull and market gravity?

We’re inundated with push: marketing, advertising, management, and leadership directives—so much so that we rebel against it, turn it off, tune it out, or otherwise disengage. Conversely, we’re drawn to individuals, brands, and experiences that intrigue us, educate us, engage us, and help us learn and grow in the process. In essence, those who become an object of interest create market gravity or pull that compel us to want to learn more. Much more powerful, wouldn’t you agree?


How is brand influence changing? What advice do you have for marketing execs?

Brand influence is no longer in the control of the brands themselves; it’s what everyone else (including employees – think Glass Door) says about them. It’s the discussions, both on- and off-line about the challenges or opportunities the target audience had, how they were referred to a solution that – often with some ups and downs – addressed most of what they needed. It’s the candid, raw, unfiltered, unobtrusive discussions about the experience before, during, and after the sale. It’s perceptions of executives, their ability to articulate a vision, and the culture’s willingness and ability to execute on that vision. In essence and as I wrote in Co-Create, the customer experience is derived from the perceived brand, value proposition, and how that brand fits into a customer’s daily journey!

Marketing execs should stop reading all the analyst data and get out and really get to know more of their customers!



Purposeful Provocative Leadership

I love your section on purposeful provocative leadership. Tell us more about it.

David Nour. Photo credit: Joel Silverman Photography

Unfortunately, many equate provocative with mean spirited, ugly, schoolyard bullying. Perhaps that’s due to our current political climate here in the U.S. I’d submit that in the right context, it can also be used to describe diligent and driven professionals, or those who through sheer will finesse their way over, under, and around perceived market obstacles. That’s what I call purposeful, provocative leadership: They know what needs to get done; they paint a succinct vision for the path forward, and they marshal the people and the resources to get there. You may not always care for their style, but you can’t argue with their success and often will not be able to deny their significance. You see it in first responders who run in when all others are fleeing. You see it in execs who take on turnaround challenges at “failing” enterprises. You see it in eyes of executives like Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi at the American Society of Microbiology, a 100+ year-old organization, which he’s singlehandedly attempting to elevate to a very different level with a commitment to innovation, a new governance model, and a passion for the impact of microbial science.



For more information, see CO-CREATE: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration.

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