Collaborate to Innovate

Collaborate to Innovate

A critical ingredient to innovation is collaboration, especially so when the application of new and emerging technologies is being investigated or during the search for marginal gains.

6 May 2020

Commercial Maritime

Collaboration both within and between organizations can both enable and accelerate innovation. Three leading companies in naval architecture, engineering and yacht building explore how the benefits of effective collaboration can lead to results that are greater than the sum of their parts.

The modern superyacht is by its very nature a highly complex product featuring sophisticated and powerfully integrated systems, all within a platform that has to balance a bias towards design and style with exceptional technical performance. The process of design, engineering, build, commissioning and support of such vessels involves substantial resources spanning international boundaries, technologies and cultures. Collaboration, therefore, is key to the construction of a superyacht as no one person or organization can be an expert in all fields.

As one of the world's leading builders of large innovative yachts, Oceanco collaborates with key industry partners via a team of in-house domain specialists and experts to deliver the best results from the combined strength of all participants. Two such partners are Lateral Naval Architects and the independent hydrodynamic research institute, MARIN.

Following the mutual development of several innovative superyachts, these companies came together to identify and adopt a best practice collaborative approach to their hull design and optimization processes, which involved a systematic process that harnessed the participants' right skills at the right time. With Lateral's blend of practical optimization techniques and MARIN's CFD based approach, as well as decades of practical test results experience, we broadened the spectrum of expertise over a single-party system.

Dirk de Jong, Project Development Manager at Oceanco, said:

"A key part of the partnership was the mutual setting of goals at the start of the design process, answering questions such as: Beyond the stated contractual target performance what can be feasibly achieved?  What do we want to explore?  What can we adapt or explore from other fields of naval architecture and design?  How ambitious should we be?

These are factors that, amongst others, the partnership explored and debated at the outset, to define realistic and achievable goals that are appropriately aligned to the needs of the overarching vessel design and the constraints imposed."

This collaborative undertaking has delivered significant benefits with the Lateral / Oceanco / MARIN partnership developing a series of industry-leading hull-forms for Oceanco projects with several designs now launched and further examples under construction in the Netherlands.

Commenting on the results, Enrico Della Valentina at MARIN states that: "This collaboration has set a very high bar in the calm water performances for displacement motor yachts. From our database of 300 comparable model tests, spanning 20 years of development, the Lateral / Oceanco / MARIN partnership has delivered a hull-form which, at its design speed, is the best performing hull in the current MARIN database. ” [circa 2017].

However, there will always be obstacles and risks to collaborative working which, without the correct ingredients and approach, will lead to an unsuccessful result. Such an outcome reinforces the self-serving bias of those who promote a more inward-fact, leading to an unsuccessful system, which can be difficult. Some factors to consider include:

Benefits

  • Improved results, increased competitive advantage
  • A key driver for innovation
  • Increased breadth and depth of knowledge (company and personal)
  • Share in risk and better risk mitigation
  • Improved use of existing resources
  • Team and individual morale

Obstacles

  • Personalities
  • Competition between partners
  • Lack of information and experience
  • Lack of resources at the decision-making stage
  • Cultural mismatch
  • Resistance to change
  • Lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities – weak leadership

Risks

  • The outcome does not align with an investment of time and resources
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Complexity in decision making
  • Diversion of energy and resource away from core activities "mission drift."
  • Lack of commercial awareness relating to budget/time / IPR matters etc.

Key ingredients

  • Leadership – take the long-term, big picture, strategic view, communicate vision. Promote and establish a culture of trying new things
    Precise aim and objective of the collaboration
  • Good personal relationships and interpersonal skills amongst team members, trust and friendship, are significant advantages.
  • Compatible cultures or understanding of cultural differences
  • Planning and methodology of approach/process
  • Transparency surrounding IPR and other commercial matters - form a written agreement.
  • Skills for change management
  • Diversity in team – skills, markets, industries
  • Commercial innovation – often, a technically innovative approach requires a commercially innovative approach.
    Persistence

Fundamental to achieving a successful result is that there must be alignment at all levels for collaboration to work. If those at the top want the organization to collaborate, then those at other grades must be willing to do so. The partnership will not be effective if people think and act only for themselves. Having cultural alignment between collaborating partners is an advantage. If alignment is not absolute, then mutual respect and acknowledgement of each other's capabilities are essential, building respect and trust.

A key benefit of collaboration across multiple organizations can be acting as a catalyst for change. Accepting the way things have been done before can often be the path of least resistance for a team working within the pressure of commercial constraints. Resistance to change and doing things in new ways can act as a significant barrier. Collaboration should ultimately drive adaptation, evolution and deliver innovation. 

Having a clear plan and methodology to the approach is critical. Everyone should buy into the method, yet it should remain flexible, adaptable, and appropriate for the available resources.

Persistence is a virtue in the face of opposition or failure; if you have the right ingredients keep going, if you have the wrong ingredients stop and re-evaluate.

Ultimately, collaborating all comes down to people. Having a room full of clever people does not guarantee a good result regardless of the level of resources. If you get the right people, in the room, at the right time, with the right mindset, you are 80% of the way to change "me" to "we" and turn people and organizations from contributors to collaborators.

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