Innovation with external partners offers many areas with both increased challenges and rewards. One such area is on how to create a productive sharing and discussion of ideas and solutions. The solution is to stay vigilant regarding and ensure psychological safety.
To have high quality creative exchanges with partners, you need to consider psychological safety as a key factor.
Psychological safety as a key factor to spark innovation with external partners
Innovation requires you to solve challenges in a changing or even messy environment. This chaotic nature of innovation is only enhanced (for better and worse) when working with external partners. However, the research is clear, the best creativity and team output comes from teams where expectations and challenges are freely shared.
Given that all members in a collectively intelligent team should share their understanding of reality and challenges, they should hence not hide behind a veil of professionalism or be concerned due to distrust or even fear. To succeed, members must hence feel psychologically safe! Collaboration between people from different organisations makes this even more challenging as you are interacting with strangers who at a personal and organisational level may not have their goals aligned with you.
This can in part be assisted by NDAs regulating what information can be shared outside the collaborative effort. Our experience is however, that the best way to open up is to build relationships and personal trust but also to reflect together about transparency and on your performance as a team. You should also realize that the nature of innovation and working with immature products generally being messy is true for both you and your partners.
For more areas to consider when doing partner innovation, please stay tuned for our upcoming Point of View on the topic.