The future of business is collaboration. The future of capitalism is co-capitalism. The problem is that we don’t know what we really mean when we speak of co-business, and we just don’t know how we can put it into practice.
Since 2000, Infonomia disseminates in Spanish, both in digital formats and through different sorts of events, innovative ideas and experiences performed by professionals and by teams in companies of all sizes and in all sectors worldwide. As a result of this spreading process, other companies may decide to initiate changes in their products, processes and business models. This systematic “exploratorium” enables us to detect changes well before they become known and propagated by the mainstream media.
In the past two years, we have detected a very clear trend: the emergence of collaboration between companies, which perhaps is signaling the start of a new era, the co-capitalism.
Indeed, we increasingly detect examples of all sorts of business collaboration. Companies that hybridize their knowledge in order to design products or services that could never come up separately (eg, design coffins, resulting from the collaboration of a famous fashion designer with a traditional coffin-maker). Companies that combine the best of each to increase the customer value of the resulting product (eg, an agreement between an automaker and a toy manufacturer aiming at designing a family car that children enjoy much better). Companies that combine their knowledge in a sort of common learning space (eg, a space for exchanging experiences or best practices in environmental sustainability).Companies that collaborate to combine the strengths of the business model of one of them with the weaknesses of the other. Moreover, large companies like P & G that announce that they expect to base a substantial part of its future sales on products that are to be developed with external partners.
It is clear that the result of the sum of the knowledge assets of several companies is greater than the addends. It is obvious that today we have tools (technologies) to facilitate collaboration between companies as we never had before in history. But it is also true that we do not really know how to develop such a collaboration, despite the availability of tools, because the history of capitalism has been based so far in competition, as well as on the process of “creative destruction” (mature companies disappear in favor of emerging ones that become truly more efficient). To talk of “collaborative evolution” in the business world seems to contradict the very basic idea of ”competitive evolution” that seem inherent to capitalism. But in a business environment in which progress depends on the density of talent and knowledge, that can’t be easily condensed into a single organization, we must learn to collaborate between companies if we are to survive. The future is necessarily, therefore, one of co-laboration, co-ordination, and co-creation. The future is co-.
Consistent with this observation, Infonomia founded in late 2009, a new initiative called Co-Society (www.co-society.com). The project’s goal is to create the conditions to allow “restless companies” in different sectors to contact and talk openly between them in order to enable the emergence of potential joint projects that otherwise would not appear. The goal is, therefore, to enable projects that would normally be “unlikely” to become reality, hence increasing the income of the companies that do collaborate. So, as examples of “unlikely projects” we have a printer manufacturer that discovered the potential opportunity of a new home-delivery service of large-format photographs, as a result of a conversation with an online travel operator. Or a manufacturer of automotive components that derived a logistic operation to recover certain valuable automotive parts, nowadays discarded after the settlement of the vehicles, through a conversation with a logistic operator. Or a chain of furniture stores that discovered how a publisher of family magazines could become a potential partner to re-think the design of a typical baby’s room at home.
Co-Society is the place where the smartest teams from the best companies in the country re-energize themselves, by combining their experience and knowledge. Organizations of any size can belong to Co-Society, but all of them must share a common feature: a profile of innovative leadership within their sector. Each sector is represented by a single leading company. This means that in our hybrid events, held several times a year, the organization can speak freely and transparently about problems and projects in which each company is involved. In early 2010, some 40 Spanish companies belong to co-society, with a global turnover of more than 100 billion euros. The core of Co-Society will only be formed by the 100 smartest teams of the country, at the end of 2014.
The aim is for companies to share visions, by overcoming the typical endogamy of each sector, trying concepts with professionals who work in other fields, and discovering ideas that would not surface in a sector-specific meeting.
Co-Society’s specific objectives are to:
- Establish conditions so that teams of different sectors actively learn from the experiences of others: not just “open innovation”; this project is about “collaborative innovation.”
- Bring straight into the country new management ideas, plus new products and services that are emerging around the world. Belonging to Co-Society means being constantly updated.
- Proactively assist companies to combine their expertise to create new projects that could not happen without a cross-agent as catalyst.
At each meeting (the melting point), there is time to discover new inputs (new ideas, new systems, new knowledge) and time to connect with co-members.
So, the future is co- Collaboration, co-creation, coordination, combined skills to generate hybrid projects: beyond ‘open innovation’, the future is about multiplying the capacity of businesses so that new products and services can emerge and stimulate a new economic force of energy.
In brief, the opportunity to experience this great and unique era should instil a strong sense of smart optimism, because we have an exceptional asset: millions of people raring to take advantage of the world’s technology stock through their personal and collective intelligence. Co-Society’s main goal is that the smartest teams from the country’s best companies combine their expertise to generate new projects, thereby creating sustainable wealth.