This thought piece is the follow up to Picking the right Innovation Races that looked at Horizon Scanning and the growing list of digital platforms that are becoming popular and capable to assist when developing your innovation challenges.
The focus switches back to the people side of the innovation matchmaking equation and takes a look into community of players that think whilst technology is powerful it’s the personal relationships and an acute understanding of organisations needs that enable the best matchmaking.
There are now thousands of dating apps. There are apps that match people by music taste, so that you can kick things off by discussing shared passions and mocking each other’s guilty pleasures. There are apps that reduce the cringe factor by allowing friends to find people for you – you remain oblivious until the date is in the offing. There are apps that encourage a return to one-at-a-time dating: each day you receive a single suggestion. These are some of the original ideas without considering all the variations of locational based, time based, and gender-based choices. In fact, the options are pretty much endless.
But let’s face it, online dating can be a terrible experience. So many potential people, so much time wasted. Christina Wallace on her Ted talk seems to think so. Online dating or matchmaking has changed a lot over the last 25 years. In terms of what it does well, it broadens your pool of potential dates beyond your social and professional circles. Everything else, in terms of access, chemistry, political and religious compatibility, sense of humour, even whether you are a monster in the morning it doesn’t do well from a matchmaking perspective.
So rather than entering the world of swiping and hook ups there is also a higher end section of the matchmaking world where it simply relies on human expertise, experience and knowing the right people. A world which contains a rigorous acceptance process which won’t be right for everyone, but a world where it is about getting the right fit for the clients.
There are a small select group of players out there that take a very similar view to the higher end traditional matchmakers when it comes to solving your innovation challenges to discovering, selecting and working with disruptive innovative firms. Rather than having to trawl through the growing list of platforms for start-up and corporate market offerings looking for a needle in a haystack, their approach could be described as more old school and reassuringly traditional with personal service and attentiveness at its core. These innovation brokers and intermediaries essentially do two things, they help large enterprises innovate quickly and also help innovative suppliers secure more business with large enterprises. They are ultimately looking to remove the friction on both sides of the equation to make it as simple as possible to find the right partners to move forward with.
Brokers and breaking down information silos
Henry Doss from T2VC back in 2013 declared the innovation equivalent to Warren Zevon’s lawyers, guns and money was Brokers, Role Models and Risk-takers. Henry’s big gig was that “where you find these functions or roles being filled, you’ll find innovative cultural states; where these functions are not being filled, you’ll will find a relatively bland, safe and predictable organizational dynamic.”
Doss observed Brokers as the group that resolve and mitigate the great threat to innovation of information silos. These individuals act as the go-betweens and connectors to enable a freer and open information exchange across business units, departments, regions and countries. Brokers provide that “information arbitrage” that reduces the friction and enables the magic to happen. They are the people who tend to be the natural networkers and connectors fostering conversations and interaction. This group are often the quirky rebels and mutineers that push the envelope in getting stuff done.
However, they are not solely an internal role to the organisation. As it is possible to outsource and procure most organisational functions and requirements, a community of players have sprung up to provide this specialist capability to folks that feel they have a gap and need to bring in some outside help.
Equivalent to specialist personal dating or headhunting services they offer acute value adding connections that can easily cut through the searching and scanning to enable you to have the right conversation with the right potential partner. No more swiping right or mass speed innovation dating nights necessary. Like those more traditional dating agencies they can assist you with your diverse range of bespoke requirements.
The challenges for this group of specialist innovation matchmakers are similar to the specialist dating agencies have in competing with technology platforms. Online dating and dating apps are one of the most popular ways to meet a new partner and there are more than 1,400 sites in the UK alone, catering for people from all walks of life and interests. So whether you’re mad about dogs, passionate about green issues or a connoisseur of fine wines you’re sure to find someone who shares your interests. The reach, variety and ease of getting fresh potential partner is phenomenal and we are reaching the stage where the default mechanism for meeting dating partners is through an online platform.
Part one of the series, Picking the right innovation races, detailed the growing array of technology platforms available to organisations. It’s fair to say that organisational partnering has not reached the ubiquity of the dating apps but the direction of travel is clear.
The ‘secret’ matching sauces
Each one of this dating apps are using their own ‘secret sauce’ or specialist algorithms to find and mark relationships between things. Amazon’s recommendation engine uses a similar idea, connecting your interests to those of past customers. It’s what led to the intriguing shopping suggestion that confronted a customer after buying a baseball bat on Amazon: ‘Perhaps you’ll be interested in this balaclava?
An algorithm is simply a series of logical instructions that show, from start to finish, how to accomplish a task. By this broad definition, according to Hannah Fry, a cake recipe counts as an algorithm. So does a list of directions you might give to a lost stranger. IKEA manuals and You Tube troubleshooting videos – in theory, any self-contained list of instructions for achieving a specific, defined objective could be described as an algorithm.
As per dating apps, shopping recommendation engines, the innovation matchmaking platforms are ultimately using a sequence of mathematical operations – equations, arithmetic, algebra, calculus, logic and data from the real world, given an objective and set to work crunching through the calculations to achieve their aim.
But as organisations look to apply a more systematic approach to scanning for and analysing new trends in innovation policy and innovation management, through the use of these platforms don’t miss out the benefits that your more human innovation broker can matchmake for you. The danger according to Doss is the value they create is often so intangible as to go unnoticed. But if you give it a hard look you’ll see them working to bring ideas and people together in ways that that simply won’t have entered on the radar of being codified. Similar to sourcing your more traditional functional requirements in finance, and HR, finding the right technology and people balance will always be the challenge in innovation matchmaking.