The 5 Types Of Innovation For The Future Of Work, Pt. 4: Competitor Innovation


Jacob Morgan, Contributor

August 5, 2015

As the world of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace, innovation continues to become both a top priority and a top challenge. For most companies, innovation is handled behind closed doors in a secluded part of the company that only a few have access to. This type of innovation is no longer practical, scalable or effective when thinking about the future of work. In order to succeed and thrive in this rapidly changing world, organizations must adapt by implementing five innovation models, all five of these are crucial and are part of a broader innovation ecosystem. The five innovation models are:

  1. Employee innovation (already published)
  2. Customer innovation (already published)
  3. Partner/supplier innovation (already published)
  4. Competitor innovation
  5. Public innovation

The concepts and ideas in this post are taken from my best-selling book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization.

Sometimes organizations who would normally be considered fierce competitors have to team up and collaborate in order to unlock new business opportunities and sometimes this is done for pure survival. The organizations who team up with competitors realize that the smartest people in the world don’t always work for them and so they have to reach beyond their four walls to tap into top talent. Teaming up with competitors actually happens all the time informally at conferences and events. How many times have you met someone at an event or a meet-up who happened to work for a competitor? Yet you still exchange ideas and share information. Innovating with competitors takes this further by creating formal programs that allow this to happen at scale and on a regular basis. Sometimes this is refereed to as coopetition. There are several great examples of companies that have done this.

Ford and GM have long been considered hardcore rivals in the automotive space yet they decided to team up in order to develop 9 and 10 speed transmissions to be used in their vehicles. Both Ford and GM realized that by teaming up they could go to market with these new transmissions faster while saving time and money on development and production. The goal of developing these new transmissions was quite lofty; improve quality and and performance while reducing fuel efficiency. Once these new products are done being developed both companies will have the rights to use them in their cars which are supposed to debut sometime in 2016. Both of these companies could have tried to do this independently but the risk would have been far greater, the costs much higher, and the time to market much longer.

Two other fierce rivals in the aerospace industry are Boing and Lockheed Martin. The U.S. Air Force issued a request for companies to bid on a multi-billion dollar Long-Range Strike Bomber program. These two companies are bidding against another competitor, Northrop Grumman. The winning contractors are expected to be announced before the end of the year. Boeing and Lockheed Martin could have bid separately on this massive project but again the risk would have been greater, the cost higher, and the ability to execute and win against each other and Northrop Grumman would have been much more challenging.

A third example I’ll mention is in the technology space. Samsung and Sony are constantly battling over creating top quality TV’s and a few years ago they teamed up to crate a new product called S-LCD. This was in response to growing demand for high quality televisions as well as the dramatic changes that were happening in their industry as far as technology development and advancement. Both Samsung and Sony invested $1 billion into this new project and within a few years they were able to more than triple their investment. Both companies were also able to increase their market share over the competition. In 2011 Sony sold its stake in S-LCD to Samsung which ended a seven year partnership.

During the course of this series I have explored several models of innovation, all of which form a broader innovation eco-system that I will write about in the final part of this series. Coopetition or innovating with competitors is perhaps the most challenging type of innovation because of the level of trust, the legal requirements, and the sheer change in mindset that is required to even initiative this type of discussion. Although this can be the hardest model to embrace it can also be the most rewarding and impactful.


Innovating with competitors doesn’t have a secret formula, it starts with a conversation and evolves from there, there is no magic pill or framework to follow that will guarantee success. In a world that is changing so rapidly, competitors can truly be the best allies when it comes to creating new products and services. I know in business schools and in our corporations we are taught to hate and crush our competitors but it might be to revisit this when thinking about innovation in the future of work.

Who are your biggest competitors? Maybe it’s time ask how you can work together instead of destroy each other.

Jacob Morgan is a keynote speaker, author (most recently of The Future of Work), and futurist. To have Jacob speak at your event, to get access to his videos, podcasts and articles, or to subscribe to his newsletter you can visit TheFutureOrganization.


This article was written by Jacob Morgan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Comment this article

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter