I've discussed in other posts, how 'open innovation' is much more than just technology scouting. It's about learning to collaborate across organizational boundaries. And that raises the question of "What are the drivers of that collaboration?"
Certainly a common product focus or synergy between a technology and a branded company are common motivators for collaborating on an innovation initiative. I'm not ready to call it a trend, but I have seen a few interesting examples recently of what I'd call "values-based collaboration".
Case in point. Ecopod, based in Santa Barbara, California has invented a simple, but clever concept for 'making recycling simple and rewarding'. In essence they're trying to create a new type of 'recycling appliance' for the home (beyond the traditional... and expensive... trash compactor). Now that story may not be that unique, but I'm intrigued by Troy Hoidal's (the founder of Ecopod) creative and smart approach to leveraging other similarly-minded organizations to help him in his quest.
Not many startups can afford the design services of BMW's DesignWorks, also based in California. (Interestingly this design group intentially does work outside of BMW to keep themselves fresh and new). But Troy understood that this was a topic of some interest to the group and was able to get DesignWorks to take this project on as a way to demonstrate DesignWorks commitment and capabilities for sustainable product development. I'm sure Troy still paid DesignWorks for their work, but I'll bet (he won't tell me) DesignWorks put a lot more effort into the project than was paid for.
Next in the chain of 'values-based collaboration' comes Ecopod's ability to leverage Williams-Sonoma, to become a committed retail partner. Williams-Sonoma gets first shot at a product category that supports its image of aspirational, but earth-friendly products. DesignWorks and Ecopod get to showcase this new iconic product. And recycling gets talked about even more.
So when you're thinking about collaboration partners, step back and look at not only the synergy of capabilities, but of purpose and values. It's a great motivator... and who knows, it might even make the world a better place.