Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role when companies, governments and cities wish to drive sustainable growth. But establishing and running partnerships is a new leadership dicipline. Leaderlab Founder & Managing Partner Sofus Midtgaard was in Istanbul this week to give a keynote on the topic.

In a 2015 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the United Nations Global Compact, 90% of executives state that collaboration is important to address sustainability challenges while only 47% are actively engaged in sustainability collaboration and partnerships.

Over the last five years partnerships to drive sustainable growth have become increasingly important. Systemic challenges – i.e. unaware investors, disengaged citizens, lack of enabling policy or introduction of new standards throughout a supply chain – are all issues that no-one company can address on its own.

With the Sustainable Development Goals it was outlined that multi-stakeholder partnerships are fundamentally necessary and should encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships.

Paul Polman

“When you look at any issue, such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution”

Poul Polman, CEO, UNILEVER

Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role in addressing systemic barriers, driving collaborative innovation and sharing risk. But like most complex projects, partnerships have a failure rate of about 50 % (Harvard Business Review, 2004). Here are 10 rules for successful sustainability partnerships that will help you avoid the most common pitfalls and help you build partnerships that last and will drive change.

Cyrus Wadia opening Summit Nike HQ

Cyrus Wadia opening Summit Nike HQ

”These are massive problems of scale. they are going to require an ecosystem of thinkers and solvers and creative minds.”

Cyrus Wadia, VP, Nike


Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA opening the LAUNCH Circular Innovation Summit at Nike HQ

Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation IKEA Group.

“Collaboration can bring great results, for example we work closely with Nike to pioneer new techniques for textile dyeing that dramatically reduce the use of water, energy and chemicals”

Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation, IKEA Group


Here are the slides from the presentation:



10 Rules for Sustainability Partnerships




Partnerships should make you able to achieve something you can not achieve on your own. Partnerships should never be the parking lot for difficult CSR-agendas better solved alone


sweet-spot2. FIND THE SWEET SPOT

Senior leadership support might give you a head start – but unless you find a sweet spot for the participating managers you will fail. Make sure to find a sweet spot/overlap between core strategic priorities of the partners.




Many stakeholders often result in cluttered goals and reporting. Agree on a moonshot, or at least set a few but ambitious goals, that will aspire people for change.



No partnership can run on money alone. Only by leaning in you will harvest the real benefits of a partnership.





You can prepare, make strategies and plans – but in the end it always comes down to people. A partnership needs champions who would die in a ditch for what the partnership is trying to achieve.





If a partnership is strategic, staff it like it is strategic! Include people from relevant business units – not just the CSR department.




Unconventional partners will bring new perspectives and spur innovation. Watch out for the usual suspects when forming partnerships.




Some of the most effective partnerships are the ones that map, connect and embrace existing initiatives – rather than conquer them. This is especially true when it comes to systemic challenges.



Even a focused partnership with few and clear goals will produce unexpected value for partners. Be open for surprises and calibrate your measures of success.




You can achieve amazing things if you are able to step back and let other people step into the limelight.


Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA ad Cyrus Wadia, Nike

Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA and Cyrus Wadia, Nike on stage at LAUNCH CIRCULAR INNOVATION SUMMIT, March 2017.

Up to 50% of all partnerships fail to deliver value and are terminated before time (HBR, 2004). Try to think about these 10 rules in relation to your existing partnerships or next time you consider entering a new partnership.

If you have reflections or suggestions to this list please feel free to contact us.  If you need help shaping a new partnership, mapping potential partners or focusing and energizing an existing partnership, do not hesitate on contact us:

Sofus Midtgaard, Managing Partner & Toke Sabroe, Partner, Leaderlab.

Paid, owned, earned and hijacked media

In a more connected and transparent world, listening to consumer dialogue and rapidly responding to consumer critique or needs is crucial. From a narrow focus on paid and owned communication companies today should focus more on how the sum of their activities are affecting their earned communication.

With the explosions of in the use search engines like Google and social media like Facebook and Twitter, earned communication plays an increasingly important role in consumer choice of products and services in the future.

Source: Forrester

As this Forrester survey documents – the opinion of friends or people you know have tried a product are the most important factor in deciding whether to buy a product. This is not new some would argue. Word of mouth has always been a critical part of the consumer decision-making process. But the new thing is that access to word of mouth and global consumers opinions have improved dramatically with the Internet and Social Media. Consumers today are crowd-sourcing decissions on anything from what cell-phone service to choose, what online banks are Mac-compatible and what carrier bike are best for transporting their children.

LEGO: Engaging Users and Building Raving fans

Conny Kalcher, Vice President for Consumer Experience at LEGO, joined LeaderLab last week to share insights on how LEGO are engaging with lead users and fans.

With products like LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO Design By Me, LEGO has demonstrated both how to form strategic partnerships but also how to open up products for user participation, mass-customization and co-creation.

LEGO is one of the world most sucesfull companies when it comes to earned communication, demonstrated by:

  • 50 million hits on Google
  • 765.000 Youtube videos
  • 883.000 pictures on Flickr


This is not the result of an aggresive social media strategy the last couple of years, but a long company tradition of involving lead users and fans.

Net Promoter Score

LEGO has together with Apple and many other global brands integrated Net Promoters Score (NPS), as a core component in measuring customer experience. Net Promoters Score is a very simple principle/score where costumers on a scale from 0-10 are asked: Would you recommend this product to a friend or a person you know? Customers answering 9-10 are promoter. Customers answering 7-8 are passives. And customers answering 0-6 are detractors.

The Net Promoters Score: NPS = % of promoters – % of detractors

Net Promoters Score is as seen a very simple but also very powerful measure. It is very much aligned with research about how people make decisions about buying products, as seen from the Forrester survey mentioned above. Read more about Net Promoters Score here.

Hijacked Media

As interesting as successful cases on earned communication from loved consumer brands like LEGO, is of course when things go wrong. What happens when angry consumer or former employees hijack brands and well coordinated campaigns.

In September 2010 Matthew Guiste from Starbucks joined us from Seattle to talk about Open Innovation and the Social Media philosophy. Starbucks is indisputably one of the most successful brands in Social Media with around 15 mill. fans on Facebook and more than 1 mill. followers on Twitter. But even prepared Social Media super stars like Starbucks can have it’s well planned marketing campaigns hijacked as a case from 2009 shows.

Anti-Starbucks filmmakers hijack campaign

In may 2009 Starbucks launched its biggest advertizing campaign in the company’s history. Posters was put up  in six major cities in the US. To further spread its message and engage consumers Starbucks challenging people to hunt for the posters and be the first to post a photo of one using Twitter. Read more about how the intensions behind the campaign in New York Times.

Unfortunately for Starbucks Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker, came across the above mentioned NYT article. Greenwald had been working on an anti-Starbucks documentary for some time. The documentary features interviews with several former and current Starbucks employees and makes the argument that the company has unfair labor practices and has aggressively fought off unions.

Source: BraveNewFilms

In a blog post published at the anti-Starbucks website, people were encouraged to take pictures of themselves in front of Starbucks stores holding critical signs targeted at the company’s “anti-labor practices.” Users where told to upload these photos onto Twitpic and tweet them using the hashtags #top3percent and #starbucks. This way the Starbucks was effectively Hijacked with the effect that more than 90.000 people as of today has seen the anti-starbucks film. Read more about the anti-campaign in this blog post by Simon Owens

Paid, Earned, Owned, Sold and Hijacked media

In an attempt to embed these new realities of marketing, social media and consumer dialogue McKinseyQuarterly has made an attempt to further developed the ‘Paid, Owned, Earned’ model to incorporate Sold and Hijacked media.
Hijacked Media McKinsey

Source: McKinseyQuarterly

High-profile examples of Hijacked media involve companies like Nestlé (whose Facebook page was hijacked) to Domino’s Pizza (a prank online video of two employees contaminating sandwiches appeared on YouTube) and as mentioned here Starbucks who among other thing have to live with the anti-Starbucks site: Stop Starbucks

Open Leadership and dialogue

Companies as well as CEO’s have to get used to – and learn to live with – that employees and customers have opinions about their products and leadership. There is nothing new about this! The new thing is that these opinions increasingly are publicly available via Google and Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and Forums.

In many cases both leaders and companies can learn a lot from listening and engaging in dialogue – also with critical consumers. In many cases critique of a product or a decisions is a result of consumer or employee passion. On the one hand companies can learn a lot of tapping into this passion. One the other hand it is important to understand that you as a leader or organizations at times will make unpopular decisions. Use social media to listen, make your argument and get inspired – but be prepared that you will also have to live with critique – even in public.

Lars Kolind: Meaning, Open Leadership and new partnerships

Lars Kolind – Author, Chairman, Entrepreneur and Advisory board member at LeaderLab – gave a speach on Meaning, How to practice Open Leadership and How to form new partnerships with employees, customers and suppliers.

Video with Lars Kolind

As promised here is the video of Lars Kolinds presentation.

Pictures from the event

We have also gathered pictures from the event at Flickr.

Lars Kolind and Matthew Guiste engaged in discussion

Open Innovation, user-driven innovation, distributed innovation, co-creation, crowdsourcing… confused?

Warning! This will not be the post to end them all by defining: Open Innovation, user-driven innovation, distributed innovation, co-creation or crowdsourcing. The following will be an introduction to Open Innovation with inspiration for further reading – a starting point.

So what is Open innovation?

Wikipedia defines Open innovation as: “Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology” (Chesbrough, H.W. (2003). Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology. Boston: Harvard Business School Press).

The term Open Innovation is overlapping with others terms like crowdsourcing, co-creation, distributed innovation and user-driven innovation. Please look up the other definitions as well and make your own definition about Open innovation.

Open as opposed to traditional innovation

Traditionally R&D and Innovation has been about bringing a few bright people together solving a problem or developing a new product. Imagine if those bright people are outside your organization?

Traditionally innovation was all about predicting the a future market or customer need. Imagine if a lot of those needs where better identified by the market of the customers themselves?

Most companies spend huge amounts of money trying to predict and control which innovation projects should continue and which should be killed. Imagine if you customers or partners could help and act open stage-gate on your innovation pipeline.

In a world of increasing complexity and connectivity it is harder than ever to predict future market and consumer needs. Consumers’ tastes change faster than ever, new technologies emerge at an increasing pace rendering much of our R&D efforts obsolete.

The Internet and social media foster new forms of organizations allowing communication and cooperation between increasingly large groups of people bringing us closer to the idea of a hive mind, against which our traditional structures simply cannot compete.

Best practice & cases

Dell, Starbucks and Proctor & Gamble has during the last ten years pioneered the field of open innovation. Opening up instead of locking up can provide real value with relatively small investments.

Starbucks has recieved 100,000 ideas so far from their customers on MyStarbucksIdea.com, Dell got the idea to sell laptops with the Linux operating system from their IdeaStorm website and 25% of all new products from Proctor & Gamble come from InnoCentive – a website where companies post challenges and anyone can submit solutions. And there are many other examples of companies using Open Innovation in various forms to solve problems or generate new products or ideas.

Imagine the number of workshops and focus groups Starbucks would need to host to generate 100,000 ideas. Open Innovation is about bringing a group of people with a common goal together to collaborate. The Internet enables us to work together in larger groups than ever before.

Open Innovation opens up for inviting all members of an organization to take part in the innovation process which will lead to different results than simply asking management or the R&D department. And innovating with your organization’s partners, customers or competitors will almost certainly bring fresh perspectives compared to only innovating

Limitation of open Innovation

There is much hype around open innovation. But open innovation will not replace more traditional innovation approaches.

In his famous quote Henry Ford said:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

There is much truth in this famous quote. We are as humans not always able to articulate what we truly want before we see it. In this light some argue that Open Innovation is better for incremental product/service innovation than for radical technological or business model innovation. But opinions differ in this field – based on different experience and concepts for implementing open innovation.

Inspired by Starbucks and Dell many companies have experimented with engaging customers via idea platforms. But many have been surprised by the fact that it often takes a lot more work than just launching an idea platform and hope for consumers to flock to participate.

Some companies, products or causes are just more lovable than others – and if you are not among those you have to work the harder to engage people. Another truth is that consumers quite quickly see through phony marketing gimmicks with no real intent of involving and taking action on ideas suggested by consumers. If you engage in open innovation you need to have real intentions and ideas about how you’re going to respond and implement the best ideas based on imput.

Open Innovation Cases

There are multiple examples of companies who have experience with open innovation. Among the most known initiatives are My Starbucks IdeaDell IdeastormIBM Innovation Jam and Shell GameChanger. These are all corporate examples of Open Innovation. For R&D matters more organizations are beginning to post challenges on Innocentive which is a platform where companies post challenges and pay for researchers around the globe to solve them. Procter & Gamble is one of the active players on Innocentive.

The premise for these initiatives are, that no one organization or human being can know everything. “The world is becoming too fast, too complex and too networked for any company to have all the answers inside,” Yochai Benkler wrote in The Wealth of Networks

Below is a list with links for you to investigate – it contains both corporate examples, R&D matters, tools and software that can be used. You can find the examples herehttp://www.openinnovators.net/list-open-innovation-crowdsourcing-examples/

Videos on Open Innovation:

A. G. Lafley, Former Chairman & CEO, P&G discussing open Innovation

Matthew Guiste, Director Global Social Media, Starbucks – presenting how Starbucks works with Social Media and Open Innovation.

Articles and blogs on open Innovation:

Books on Open Innovation:

Here is a list of books we recommend in order to learn more about open innovation.

Please feel free to comment or share relevant links til books, videos, blog-posts or articles on Open Innovation, Crowdsourcing, Co-creation etc. below.

LeaderLab: Leadership Network kick-off June 17th

LeaderLab’s new Leadership Network on Open Leadership & Social Business Innovation had a great kick-off June 17th at Carlsberg Academy. Gathered was 55 business leaders, politicians, NGO’s and thinkers. Sofus Midtgaard – Managing Partner at LeaderLab,  Anne Skare – Partner at Future Navigator and Hanne T. Odegaard Head of Customization at LEGO share thoughts and experiences on Open Leadership, Social Business Innovation, Social Media, Crowdsourcing, Co-creations, Mass Customization, Sustainability and Meaning,

The network events and some of the presentations and videos are only available for members, but we try to share our thoughts with the rest of the world so here are some photos and Sofus Midtgaards presentation from the event.

Photos from the LeaderLab 2010/2011 kick-off at the Carlsberg Academy:


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