I facilitated an executive panel discussion on “Collaboration for Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Success” with diverse viewpoints from transportation (Ontario airport), manufacturing (AMETEK Ameron), technology for manufacturing and logistics from the global leader in GIS (ESRI), and innovation, incubator and accelerator gurus.  It was a fascinating discussion on the value of collaboration, to innovate or not, robots or people and other controversial hot topics.

The key takeaways included the following:

  • The Value of Partners – Several panelists talked about the value of choosing your partners wisely. No one person and no one company can do it alone. In fact, we often collaborate not only with “usual suspects” but also with ones we might not suspect, such as our competition. When you can find a way to collaborate with competition where you both “win”, a powerful outcome will result.
  • Fail Forward – This was a powerful insight from one of the panelists. As I always say in speeches on innovation, you have to fail to be successful in innovation. Do we see our failures as ‘failing forward’? Or do we hide under a rock?
  • Robots or People? – We had a bit of debate. Will robots replace jobs? Absolutely! But can they also create jobs? Fill gaps left by the retiring baby boomer? Increase the quality of manual tasks? And enable far greater capacity? Absolutely!
  • Is all Innovation Good?  –  Of course not! Again, if a topic is a good one, it will stir up debate.  Wasting lots of time innovating for non-existent returns on investment isn’t a smart move. On the other hand, the pure nature of innovation will require failure. How do we navigate when to innovate and when not to innovate?
  • Is all Collaboration Good? Again, absolutely NOT! Wasting time collaborating when a quick decision must be made is worse than a waste of time. On the other hand, if we can turn 1 + 1 + 1 = 33, it certainly seems worth it. Just don’t think about your standard partners only. Why not industry groups, educational institutions, and more?

Take a few minutes to think about collaboration. What have you seen work best? Actually, back up. No one should just think about collaboration. Instead, we should be thinking about our end result. Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? Now, think about the best use of collaboration, innovation, technology and other topics that will accelerate success.

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