Making Sparks fly: Why collaborate to innovate?


The third of four weekly blogs with John Russell’s reflections on Ofwat’s digital campaign —Spark!

The focus of this week is collaboration: why it’s necessary and the benefits collaboration can bring.

In the third episode of our campaign, picking up nicely from our focus on culture last week, Nick Sumption at Tideway makes an important point that to innovate you sometimes have to “look within yourself.” This speaks to the need to ensure that organisations are collaborating effectively internally to share knowledge and improve efficiency. For example, are there more ways a company’s asset maintenance teams could collaborate with their customer service teams to deliver a better service for customers?

When it comes to looking externally to collaborate, I had two big takeaways from this week’s episode beyond the mind-set point. First, I was reminded of the variety of forms collaboration can take. It can be asking for a peer review to see if another organisation has different thoughts or experiences about a specific idea/problem, gathering with competitors to consider sector-wide challenges, or forming a strategic partnership with others – potentially new or different stakeholders in new or different ways. A number of contributors talk about the potential of collaborating more using open data and Ofwat’s George Farrington has written a blog about his experience at a recent hackathon, seeing first hand a different way of collaborating.

Second, you don’t need to start from scratch. There are so many possibilities for learning from the great thinking already going on across the world – all of the contributions we’ve had this week speak testament to that. Organisations can learn from other’s experiences through established forums – such as Tideway’s i3P forum – or they can use the knowledge of the supply chain, as Future Water Association’s Paul Horton says to help meet future challenges and “engage on a broader level with the public”.

Using collaboration to engage more deeply with customers is another strong theme in our video. Charley Maher and Ian Fewings at Flipper speak about the importance of using feedback, good and bad, in a business to drive improvements with the end-user in mind. The Engineering Comes Home project that Dr Kat Austen was involved in is also well worth a look – she talks about it in her full interview too. It took some really interesting approaches to solving how you can engage the community on complex issues and revealing their preferences.

With all this in mind, you can look ahead to next week’s episode to hear from our contributors on why organisations need to innovate now, collaboratively and individually.

The fourth episode of Spark! ‘Sparking change: Don’t wait, innovate!’ will be released on Tuesday 27 February 2018.

Please continue to get involved with the discussion around campaign using #SparkInnovation on Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter: @John59131249

This is the third of four weekly blogs with my reflections on Ofwat’s digital campaign —Spark! Click to see blogs from week one and week two.