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A couple of years ago, it seemed that everybody in the external innovation business aspired to be “partner of choice.” That is, they wanted to be the company that external partners would preferentially approach with unsolicited new opportunities. Michael Fruhling is pleased to report that a number of companies have really stepped up their external partnering “game.”

Whatever your role, personally or professionally, as Bob Dylan once sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Here are some “best practices” some companies employ to attract and cultivate business partners.

Effective and enduring partnerships are based on providing and sharing reciprocal value. Those that are one-sided are typically unsatisfying, and are vulnerable to fracture. I have frequent occasion to approach a wide variety of corporate partners with unsolicited opportunities. Among them, some are particularly noteworthy.

Specifically, I like dealing with Unilever. Amway, Kraft and Colgate have become strong, too. They are not alone, as others are also making great strides. Here are some of their best practices:

  • They respect and treat others as individuals and not as anonymous “cases.”
  • They don’t take me and my interest for granted.
  • They have a sense of urgency and purpose.
  • They pursue actions and issues with energy . In contrast, some companies are frustratingly, consistently sluggish (which as a result, has caused me to abandon them).
  • They do what is promised, completely, and on time.
  • They are outstanding listeners and actively seek to understand issues with the aim being to address them fairly.
  • They reciprocate their partners’ interest and aren’t solely focused on what others can do for them.
  • They reach out to provide updates, pursue next steps, and drive decisions. I don’t always have to initiate contact.
  • They are honest, direct and transparent, including about success prospects.

These are my observations. Do you have others to share?

By Michael Fruhling

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