[column] Collaboration stimulates business model innovation

The business model describes the network that an organization has with suppliers and partners. On the one hand, you can think of supplementing knowledge and competences that can make your own business model even more valuable, and on the other hand, to realize possible economies of scale. My view is that cooperation should take place on the basis of reciprocity. In other words: if two or more organizations work together, organizations should both benefit from it. In addition, collaboration can also offer opportunities to “innovate faster together and to apply new technologies in a business model”.

There are several arguments for wanting to collaborate with other organizations as an organization. As an organization, ask yourself: for what reason or for what purpose do you want to work with other organizations?

Motivations to work together

There are several arguments for wanting to collaborate with other organizations as an organization. As an organization, ask yourself: for what reason or for what purpose do you want to work with other organizations? To give a few examples, I mention the motivations that Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur (2009) distinguish to create partnerships.

1. Optimization and economies of scale:

In many cases, it is not always logical for an organization to own all resources or to carry out all (non-core business) activities itself. In addition, collaboration can provide possible optimization and economies of scale, for example to save costs or additional sales channels can arise through collaboration.

2. Limitation of risk and uncertainty

Collaboration can also help organizations to mitigate risks in a competitive environment. On the other hand, which is also not uncommon, an organization can compete at one time and collaborate in another area and complement each other.

3. Acquisition of certain resources and activities

Many organizations do not have all the resources or perform all the activities described by their own business model. Organizations, on the other hand, can also expand their capabilities by relying on other companies to provide certain resources or perform certain activities.

Collaboration based on different basic forms

If you want to work together as an organization, you can make choices based on which form you want to work with other organizations. Kaats & Opheij (2012) and Twynstra Gudde (z.j.) distinguish four different basic forms of collaboration: namely exploratory collaboration, entrepreneurial collaboration, functional collaboration and transactional collaboration. The choice of a basic form also depends on the objective (s) of an organization that wants to cooperate with other organizations. Just to give an example. If you want to innovate more based on collaboration, the basic form of entrepreneurial collaboration is a choice that provides for renewal. In my view, this form of collaboration suits organizations that want to anticipate changes more quickly. In other words, innovating together is faster than alone.

Reflection questions for collaboration

Perhaps you as an organization already work together with partners or you are in the exploration phase to start working together. Below are a number of questions that you can ask yourself as an organization:

1. Is there a focus on working with partners? If not, you can start scanning (unmet) customer needs or contextual changes, which you may be able to tackle in collaboration.

2. Are there also strong working relationships with (current) partners? I am referring to the fact that cooperation should not only be arranged on paper, but that cooperation must also be operationalized and evaluated frequently.

3. Are there possible risks if partners terminate a collaboration? For example, are you not too dependent on certain “knowledge and competences” of partners?

4. Are there opportunities to generate more business based on cooperation? Think of extra sales channels and the generation of extra leads.

5. Are there possibilities to develop (new) propositions in collaboration, or to give substance to the building block channels (how you want to reach customers as an organization)?


In my opinion, collaboration between different organizations pays off. As an organization you can better and sometimes faster fulfill (unmet) customer needs and contextual changes. But remember: cooperation must create value for both or more parties (reciprocity). And if you want to collaborate, see what motivates you as an organization to collaborate with partners. This can differ per organization. Finally, as an organization you have to determine on the basis of what you want to work with someone else. As mentioned earlier, I think ‘entrepreneurial cooperation’ is appropriate in the time when we can anticipate changes more quickly together. In other words, together is just faster than alone.


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