Trust in Collaborative Innovation

In my work at Sberbank Technology Research Center, we constantly interact with partners, as we have defined our innovation strategy in the spirit of open innovation. We mostly collaborate with others (as opposed to doing it all in–house) when designing and deploying innovative technologies that are useful to the bank’s business and aligned with its strategy.

I have talked with almost two hundred partners and potential partners, from 1.5 person startups to large international banks, and we started work on seven projects already. From all those meetings, conversations, technical discussion, and negotiations, a pattern has emerged. One would think that the most important selection element is business fit (aka “viability”) combined with technical wizardry (aka “feasibility”). However it became very clear that the discerning factor is trust, as in trusting our innovation partners (“collaborators”) to be true collaborators while providing the correct business model and incentives for both to succeed.

Some examples of how to lose our trust:

— Talk with every department in the bank about your new gadget/technology, and forget to inform the innovation team.

— Start a small pilot somewhere else in the bank and use it to force us to forgo technical due diligence and strategic fit analysis to quickly sell your technology.

— Promise to send a proposal and technical specification and forget to do it for three months.

— Send a new proposal every other month with your solution adapted to show how you can solve the latest problem you’ve heard we have.

— Present with lots of slides borrowed from others/competitors, without realizing that we have seen them presented by the original authors last week.

— Show us the same technologies that you have tried to present as “innovation” for the past three years.

— Send angry emails when we tell you we need more time to review your solution.

Having fun with technology innovation at Sberbank…