Innovation is a team effort – how to find the right innovation partners

To make your innovation project happen, you’ll have to work together. Only by including the right innovation partners, you’ll succeed.

Finding your innovation partners

Coming up with a brilliant solution or a remarkable idea is something you can do on your own. Sure, it’s much easier if you collaborate with others, but with the right thinking techniques anyone can generate creative ideas, even without backup.

Innovation, however, is definitely a team effort. To make innovation happen, you’ll have to work together.

The difference between creativity and innovation

To explain why you need others to innovate, it’s important to distinguish creativity from innovation.

Innovation needs creativity. Creative ideas are the input that can set innovation in motion.

Being creative is the act of coming up with new ideas. And while generating new ideas is very useful, it is not enough. If you don’t act on a new idea, not much will happen. Sure, you can share your idea to inspire others, but unless someone takes action, nothing will change.

Innovating is basically putting ideas into action. As soon as you start implementing a creative idea, you’re innovating.

Making ideas happen, however, is not as easy as it sounds. And you most certainly won’t be able to succeed on your own. You’ll need innovation partners.

Include stakeholders to ensure support

The first type of innovation partners you need to involve, are those who are directly affected by your intended innovation; stakeholders. These people will often be colleagues, clients or residents. Failing to include these people in your innovation process can be a costly mistake. No matter how brilliant your idea, if stakeholders have not been involved, the ‘Not invented here syndrome’ will make sure your idea gets nowhere. People tend to resist ideas that are not their own. Especially if implementing such an idea impacts them directly. If stakeholders won’t embrace your idea, you can forget about it being successful.

You definitely need support for your idea if you want to realise it. But stakeholders are not the only people you need to include in your innovation process.

Include capable partners to realise your idea

Generally, a team or organisation will not have all the required knowledge or expertise in-house. This means that you’ll need to partner up in order to realise your concept. You’ll have to collaborate with innovation partners who have the expert knowledge you lack or who have the technical expertise (or material) to make your idea happen.

Take, for instance, the Sniffer bike: a concept launched by the Dutch Province of Utrecht.

Sniffer bike

Some people working for the Province of Utrecht were curious about the quality of the air cyclists breathe in every day during their trip to work, school or the supermarket. They came up with the idea of measuring the air quality with a mobile measuring station; The Sniffer Bike. They envisioned cyclists measuring the air quality in their Province, simply by cycling around with a bunch of sensors stuck to their bikes.

The Province of Utrecht employs many very clever people. Even so, the initiators realised that it would be ill-advised to try to develop the Sniffer bike from scratch themselves. They looked for parties to collaborate with and found two start-ups who seemed perfect for the job. One of the start-ups specialises in data solutions and the other in sensors. They could provide the sensors to collect the data ánd the platform to combine and visualise this data. A third partner organisation that was approached was the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The RIVM validates the data that is collected.

The public-private dream team that thus was formed, was able to quickly realise the first experiment with 10 Sniffer bikes ‘on the road’. The experiment was a success and currently, over 500 Sniffer bikes are collecting data on the go.

Include experts to improve your idea

Apart from technical expertise, you sometimes simply lack knowledge. New ideas often also lead to many new questions. Don’t try to answer all these questions yourself. If your idea is truly novel in your situation, you probably won’t be able to come up with the answers on your own anyway. Try to include experts who know more about these topics than you. Experts will be more likely to help you out than you might expect. They’ll often gladly help you to challenge and improve your ideas.

Conflicting ideas

We regularly organise ‘creative thinktanks’ with groups of stakeholders. In these thinktanks, we help people generate creative solutions and innovative ideas. Each of these thinktanks leads to hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of ideas. Unfortunately, among these ideas are often ideas that seem utterly conflicting.

To deal with rough or even contradictory ideas, we regularly approach outside experts. People who know a lot about a certain topic. We ask them to share their thoughts on some of the ideas we’re unsure about. Sometimes we’d like to know if a wild idea is technically possible (and if not, in what way the same result might be achieved), at another time we ask if seemingly contradictory ideas might be reconciled, if we’ve missed anything or what best practises could be deployed to make an idea happen. Over a cup of coffee, these experts share their experiences and knowledge. The neutral experts allow us to develop stronger and more nuanced solutions and vision documents.


You’re not on your own. There are a lot of people who are willing to join your innovation effort. Involve them. You’re not just doing them, but also yourself, a huge favour.


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Curious how we can help you include stakeholders and find the right experts in order to develop a strong concept or vision? Feel free to contact us.

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