I often use this platform to preach about the benefits businesses gain from cooperating, even if they are also competitors. In the past I have talked about how businesses should cooperate and take advantage of each other’s comparative advantage for them to each succeed and prosper individually. I have also discussed the way competing businesses can enjoy the fruits of cooperation by joining forces on different levels.
Those two ideas are combined and extended in the idea of intelligent communities. A recent report written by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) discusses how creating intelligent communities can spark innovation within them.
First, let’s understand what innovation is, in the context of the community, and who the players are who have the power to spark innovation.
Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of high-tech companies and technology savvy members. Innovation doesn’t limit itself to technology only, and it can come in many shapes and forms. To innovate means literally to renew or change something, and thereby create value. Therefore, in a community setting, everyone who creates change and betters the life of themselves and their fellow members is an innovator. Thanks to their size, organizational and resource businesses, educational institutions, and governments are the major players in this field. Together, they have the power to develop and implement innovative policies, ideas, and processes that will not only benefit themselves, but also benefit the members of the community they are active in.
However, since we are here to talk about small businesses, here is how creating intelligent communities through cooperating with government and educational institutions can benefit local businesses:
Access to Knowledge: Cooperating with local educational institutes can expose businesses to academic knowledge they had no access to before. They can learn about new business trends, policies, and inventions, not just by reading an academic journal and research, but also by actually talking to experts and who spend all of their lives learning and exploring these issues. Cooperation between government and businesses can lead to the development and implementation of new regulation that will benefit local businesses.
Access to Talent: Taking part in groups and discussions that involve interaction with skilled and talented individuals in the community can help businesses learn about new ventures and projects they might want to get involved in. Also, it can be a great way to network and meet potential candidates who can be hired to promote growth in your business.
Access to Markets: Being an active member in an intelligent community means connecting with local companies and prospective customers in government, nonprofit, and regional businesses. The intelligent community is important for businesses because it builds a structured setting that promotes these encounters, which wouldn’t necessarily accrue otherwise.
When thinking about alliances, we usually get an image of two companies looking to gain competitive advantage and benefit only themselves. The idea of intelligent communities shows us that things can be done differently. Creating a structured alliance between decision-makers in the community can create value for them and for the people around them.
Based on: “Intelligent Communities: Platforms for Innovation.” Intelligent Community Forum (2011): Web. 16 August 2012.