Talking with an entrepreneur recently about innovative approaches to community-improvement, he discussed a market gap he perceives isn’t being adequately addressed by current community organization resources in his city. It’s not that no community organization is trying to be innovative and address the issue. To the contrary, there are many community and private organizations, large and small, whose full or partial reasons for being include addressing the same perceived market gap through significant, very public efforts underway already.
So with all those community-oriented parties already trying to pursue their own innovative strategies to address the community need, what is this entrepreneur’s plan?
You guessed it.
He’s starting a new community organization to address the gap in an innovative way.
While applauding the drive, determination, and commitment it takes to launch a completely new organization and take on the challenge of addressing this community gap which may or may not be fillable, I shake my head in amazement.
In the interest of doing something new and different (dare we say, “innovative”), he’s willing to walk right past smart people, some highly-resourced organizations, and a whole bunch of effort and connections others have labored to already make in the interests of doing his own thing. And in this case, “his own thing” looks and sounds on the surface to much like probably 10 other options, just targeted slightly differently – with a potentially less-sound business model he’s devised.
While the innovation cheerleader in me applauds and encourages an individual pursuing a dream, the strategy guy in me has to ask, “Why do you want to take on the increased risk and disproportionate effort of going it alone?”
For as much we write and talk about being innovative, would-be innovators might, in many cases, be much more successful pursuing a strategy of collaboration. For this entrepreneur, collaboration would be characterized by:
- Surveying the players who think they own addressing the community market gap
- Doing basic homework to understand who is strong, who is struggling, and figuring out the amount of overlap in organizations that have the talent
- Developing a strategy for trying to integrate and align groups to close the community gap
True, collaboration might not be as ego-rewarding as an innovation strategy for community change. And a collaboration strategy may require compromising on a precise vision for change.
But when it comes to too many community organizations trying to do essentially the same thing, collaboration IS innovative. Collaboration can drive real results in such a situation faster than trying to be “innovative” and fighting for the same financial resources, inspired volunteers, and audience attention everyone else is trying to win over, too.
Mike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.