“They don’t bring us ideas.”
“When we first outsourced, our service provider had the newest ideas, but now three years later, we have caught up to them and they’re treading water. So what’s next?”
These are quotes from operations executives over the past months of research, when asked about whether or not they (still) consider their service provider “innovative.” Since the term is open to interpretation, for the sake of this blog, let’s view it as an ongoing improvement in the impact of the work being delivered by doing something differently… something over and above the basics of what you would have expected, beyond the letter of the contract.
And, often, these comments are followed by, “it may be… well it likely is, our organization that is holding us back.”
If you really want what’s next… your service provider might actually have the ideas… but is your leadership willing to listen, invest, give them access to your intimate data, and give it a try? Is your organization genuinely culturally ready for innovative change? And is the service provider capable and culturally aligned as well? If not, maybe you aren’t ready for innovation; or, maybe not with your current partners.
Consider three “Power Ups” to change the face and increase the value of outsourcing: Courage, Budget, and Stories
Harken back to the days of Mario brothers in the video games, when Mario and Luigi tapped into “power ups” to help achieve their goal. (Maybe this is not such a leap in time for you!) “Super mushrooms” gave them temporary size and height advantage, ability to take multiple “hits” before dying, and additional lives. The “super mushrooms” of outsourcing—to achieve innovation and increased value through partnership—are good for use by any player—operations executives, delivery staff, service buyer or service provider:
- Courage: The “gumption” as a leader to “allow,” and as an employee to “take” a chance, to leave egos at the door, to experiment, to “play,” to quickly acknowledge and shut down what does not seem to be working.
- Budget: Realistically, nothing much will happen without a dedicated budget to finance time and materials that support research, dialogue, and prototypes.
- Stories: Visuals and stories connect with our emotions, and are memorable. When you really want someone to understand, appreciate, engage, own, and promote a concept, a result, an idea, or a change, then “show and tell.”
If you want innovation—new ideas implemented to drive step changes in results—you need to be willing to do 1-2-3. If not, you are probably keeping yourself in a dangerous continuous improvement cycle—and also likely to get lost in the dust of other companies that are innovating.