Success Factors

Caring and Sharing - To Build Trust

In August 2013, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, published a white paper detailing a “Hyperloop” - a super-fast passenger train that would overcome the usual friction by levitating above its track on air-bearings in an enclosed low-pressure tube.

Elon made his white paper open to any start-up that might want to tackle the challenge of advancing the idea and he started a contest for engineering students to develop their own test pods. Today, there are numerous teams around the world that are developing Hyperloop pods. The Hyperloop concept paper is “open-sourced" by Musk and SpaceX, and other organizations have been encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them.

Until today, a few companies and several interdisciplinary student-led teams are working to advance the technology. Many of these teams are transparently sharing their ideas and advances with others. They do so to develop a revolutionary new transporting system that is energy effective and a sustainable alternative to flying. Elon Musk chose to be almost 100% transparent with his idea, instead of treating it as a business secret.

"It might be fun to test new tech, but it has to create value in the end."

What should your organization share transparently within the ecosystem network and what are your ‘business secrets’? It seems to be a thin line between the two. Knowledge sharing is often key to success in complex and innovative projects run by an ecosystem network of actors. Yet, there is always a risk, however small, that someone will use the shared knowledge in conflict with the intended vision. There might therefore be business critical information that needs to remain inaccessible to a third party. Even though there are potential losses on the downside of sharing, you will probably gain even more in time, budget, and development, by sharing your expertise and top-notch insights, strategic objectives, good examples, etc. An important task is to build trust between the parties you need to cooperate with. But here comes the catch; to build trust you must share and in order to dare sharing you need to feel you can trust the other party. As a leader in an innovative organization, you must nurture a transparent and trusting culture, where people dare to trust that, simply - you must give some to get some.

What turned out to be close to obvious in our study, is that long term relationships are necessary in many innovative projects. These relationships are not that different from love relationships that you might expect. They build on trust and mutual respect for one another. It is about give and take and the balance between the two. You need to respect each partner's core business and allow them to use some of the project’s common assets, such as data, in their own business. Initially, it is important to identify core business values that cannot be shared with everyone and in that case with whom. Sometimes, agreements that regulate how involved parties can use all assets to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary illicit exploitation, are needed.

Quotes from case interviews:

"We invest in long-term relationships that like all good relationships are built upon trust, mutual respect and are genuinely two-way"
Paul Clarke, Ocado Group, UK (SoMa and SecondHands)

"Trust is an important success factor. Trust among employees and a trust-based management, e.g. knowing and trusting that you have co-workers and leaders in the organization that are great at what they do."
Soraya Axelsson, City of Helsingborg, Sweden (H22 and the making of a smarter city)

"We benchmark against other teams, but we also discuss project challenges, design, marketing etc. with them. Even though we are competing in the same contest, the teams help each other out - it is a very transparent, sharing culture."
Adam Lidström, KTH The Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (Hyperloop)

"You need to understand the business values - what will give us the best value of the technology? Not only commercial - also societal. It might be fun to test new tech, but it has to create value in the end."
Jesper Hedlund, Örebroporten Fastigheter AB, Sweden (Digital twin city and the next step in digital twins – AI.MEE project)

"When we produce something together it is a shared asset. By way of example: In our case the sensors were owned by one university, the IoT platform owned by an ICT company, and the algorithm developed by another university. But the data outcome is co-owned by all project actors. This is pretty clear during testing, but when scaling up, it is much more tricky. Data handling and ownership are big issues."
Maya Miltell, RISE, Sweden (iWater - Digital monitoring of water quality)

Top insights from interviews - How to build a trusting and sharing culture in your project network or organization:

  • Identify what your organization can and cannot share with other partners.
  • Regulate how all stakeholders in the project get to use the common assets in their line of business.
  • You will most certainly need some kind of declaration of intent from all stakeholders, but agreements are probably not necessary - other than perhaps at a later stage.
  • Remember that collaboration is never based on money only – but on common goals and the work performed.
  • The meeting structure is important. The type and frequency of meetings should support sharing both experiences (good and bad!) and knowledge as well as building deeper relationships with partners.
  • Be transparent within the ecosystem, build trust.
  • A trusting leadership empowers all actors, giving them the opportunity to own their part of the process.
  • Resources: Invest in long-term relations with a diversity of strategic partners.
  • Invest time and capacity into workshops where you share insights from all participating experts, the R&D work, etc. Put collected insights into a common objective perspective and develop new formats that all stakeholders own collectively.

If you are interested in reading more about ‘caring and sharing’, we recommend the following cases: Hyperloop one, GrowSmarter - transforming cities for a smart, sustainable Europe, H22 - the making of a smarter city, Health Movement, City as a Platform, Innovation Park, Data for now.