Parallel or Serial?

2 09 2008

So I’ve been working on this concept for some time as a result of an Open Innovation process that I put together for two of our clients – both major international food companies – who are taking the brave first steps towards collaboratively innovation. I say first steps, but they’ve actually already been at this for over a year – and it’s only just recently that the legal teams on both sides have put together and signed enough agreements with three letter acronyms (NDA, CDA, JDA, etc) to justify their retainers and satisfy every eventuality that this collaboration might produce – cue the ability for the business teams (and me) to start formulating a way to actually work with each other. During this two day working session I got to thinking that there are several ways in which to collaboratively work on a specific problem – mainly either in parallel or serial modes. 

The classic way of working is in Serial mode – that is – you first pose the question to one team, then pass the results to another team for further building and idea gathering, then to another team to develop further, etc – one after another until you have a finished product.  This is also the model you follow if you simply put everyone in the same room and let them at the problem.

The alternative Parallel mode gives the same question to both teams and has them both ideating in isolation – only to share the results with each other after the end of the ideation period. Whilst it would seem to be a duplication of effort and ideas (and you’re right to think so) there are actually times when that would make sense – and even be preferable. 

Of course people then also are able to mix the two approaches – first a Parallel process, followed by a Serial process to get the desired result and I thought I’d spend a little time this week to explore some of these concepts.  As these aren’t fully formed yet – bear with me if in future posts I then continue to add more – but I figure if I don’t get started somewhere, it’ll be ages before I get around to explaining what I think is a pretty interesting process question. More to come later :) 

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