One of the key components of a future fit technology strategy is finding new ways of tapping into partners’ innovation capabilities. There’s only so much innovation you can find within the four walls of your own organization, and having a wide range of perspectives and experiences can help bring new ideas and concepts to light. That’s where innovation networks can help.

Conceptually, innovation networks are connected systems of people working together toward shared objectives, often through internal teams and external partners such as suppliers, universities, accelerators, customers, and startups. The best create environments where new ideas, and even moonshot-type innovation, can flourish. And they can often deliver more sustainable streams of innovation that sometimes gets sidetracked internally.

To help put this concept into context, here are four key ways that innovation networks can deliver business value and some real-world examples to crystallize them:

  1. Accelerating product and process innovation. Bringing partners, customers, or even competitors into your product development cycle can bring new perspectives and unexpected benefits. For example, tire manufacturer Michelin works with partners and suppliers to find solutions to industry problems, often sharing the solutions with others.
  2. Facilitating multi-stakeholder go-to-market initiatives. Network-based innovation and collaboration can drive new solutions to difficult problems. Dubai’s smart city partner ecosystem co-develops and delivers municipal solutions in areas like public transportation and sanitation much more efficiently than if vendors were to try and do it on their own.
  3. Improving customer experiences. Switzerland-based global duty-free shop operator Dufry integrates data and services from many vendors into holistic and immersive customer experiences. For example, smart advertising boards are linked to flight schedules and change as a function of gates, times, and destinations. More recently, sustainability information has also been integrated into the buying experience.
  4. Enabling new business models. Experimenting with partner-based business models can give your in-house innovators permission to explore the unexpected, free of the baggage of history. Polestar, the electric performance subsidiary of Volvo and Geely, is experimenting with new commercial models, retail spaces, and experiences, finding new opportunities in adjacent industries, such as its collaboration with Sweden-based electric boat manufacturer Candela.

To find out more about the roles that make up an effective innovation network and how they can help you create value, growth, and resiliency, read our recent report, A Four-Tier Approach To Building Your Innovation Network.