Supply Chain Minute – Innovation & Co Creation

“Building strong relations through Innovation & co-creation” 

– How can you make yourself attractive as an SME to a Chinese business partner, using Design Thinking

– Case: how you can save 200.000 EUR and 10 weeks in your Product Development by using innovation and co-creation

Product Development and Innovation does not only exist in Europe, and by developing your project alone before you present it to your Chinese business partner, a lot of time and money is potentially lost. To gear your business for the future, you can benefit from European-Chinese co-creation and innovative Design Thinking. This, will not even mean better and faster business cases, it will also help to make you attractive as an SME on the Chinese market.

Oh boy, how I have seen a lot of time and money lost in so-called partnerships between European and Chinese, when we talk about product development. Both in hardcore product development, but also in projects on setting up Chinese entities, distributions or regular flow of goods. For some reason, it seems to me as if the majority of European companies still to this date finish the innovation processes behind closed curtains – and certaintly on European timezones. In my eyes, this is the root-cause of lost time and money – and not being able to make yourself attractive to Chinese business partners. I mean, whats the fun – you have done all the interesting and innovative projects yourself, right?

The reply I get for this, when I am solving complexed challenges in my clients’ supply chains, or doing workshops, trainings or keynotes, is that well ”we know better, we are better designers and – we own IP rights anyway”. Well, let me put a questionmark right there. Do we really know better?

Imagine what would happen, if you invited your Chinese business partner to be a part of your innovation process way before you even knew which product or project to develop? What kind of valuable insights would you bring to your corporation, should you do somesthing as crazy as inviting your Chinese partner to come study the users of your product in their local enviroment? What would happen to the process then? Would this add value to you? I promise you it will.

Using a model such as Design Thinking Innovation Model, you can start using innovation and co-creation as a way to save time and money – and make yourself attractive to a Chinese business partner at the same time. By adding the tecknological expertise and extensive know-how from your business partner to the empathize and definition parts of the process even – you will first of all get a lot of valuable feedback and comments at a much earlier stage of your innovation, and you will thereby also improve the likelyhood of your product or project becoming a future success to your business. If the product cannot come out of tooling, it simply does not make sence to produce it – nomatter how pretty or smart it is. The better and stronger business case that you are able to build – the more impressive your buttom line will be. And getting this insoghts to the table before you spend a lot of hours drawing your product or negotiation the price, scouting the location or setting up distribution – will absolutely be a game-changer for you.

Only when your business partner truly understands your status quo and local enviroment, they can actually suggest the innovative solutions that I have seen in so many contracts demanded to be out forward by the partner. Funny thing is, that second bulletpoint in same contracts are always that ”european companies own IP rights”.. If so, first we much explain the background stories – our ’why’s’ much better, and second what encitament will any partner have to suggest anything under such terms? Im my book, the strongest relations are build from a platform of sharred wins – and losses. But all of these success stories will all begin with; insights. And to gain insights, we have to work closely with our etseemed and chosen strategic partners with our ‚why’s. Be vulnorable and share our challenges that we seek to solve in co-creation. Open – not naive. Sharing our challenges and listening tot he feedback of our chosen expterts will put us in the very top of class in the battle oft he best global business partners. But we have tob e willing to open up and accept that we alone will not have all the know-how and answers and design expertiese in Europe.

I do not own any magic wonds, crystal balls or fortune glasses – but by using the Design Thinking Innovation Model as a tool to think differently and include the Chinese business partner in the innovation – I saved a client of mine more than 200.000 EUR and 10 weeks on an anaual basis. And this, only in their product development. Imagine what this model and way of thinking could do for you?

By Heidi Larsen