Wednesday, March 29, 2017

KaBOOM! : The Power of Innovative Partnerships in Strategy

          Throughout the Austin and Porraz case “KaBOOM!” one main theme that kept coming up was the vital role that partnerships played in KaBOOM!’s business strategy. In fact, through partnerships that followed a business/social-sector framework with companies such as The Home Depot, CNA Insurance, and Target, KaBOOM! was able to garner significant attention for not relying on non-profits and charities and funding, while also raising more than $14.5 million in funding from these partners to achieve their goal of building playgrounds for children in low-income communities. The theme for this week’s class is “The Strategic Planning Process and Evaluating Current Performance,” and one can see that KaBOOM’s ability to form strong connections with well-known companies and tap into these companies’ corporate social responsibility efforts was indeed a major part of its strategic planning process, not to mention that it was an innovative way to distinguish itself from its competitors when it comes to funding sources.

            As I was thinking about the importance of partnerships in the case of KaBOOM!, I started to also think about how innovation can also play a role when coming up with business strategies and the partners that can help an organization implement those strategies. I was reminded of the concept of ‘Outsourcing Innovation’ that we discussed in my Innovation Management in Practice course. The idea is that, when designing their business strategies, companies need to utilize external resources to cultivate innovation in their strategies. In the book Making Innovation Work: How to Manage It, Measure It, and Profit from It, the authors write that “partnering is a standard and potentially valuable part of the innovation toolbox. Reaching outside for additional resources, ideas, expertise, and different perspectives can be highly valuable when combined with the internal ability to understand and use what your partners bring.” [1]

            Therefore, one can see that KaBOOM! is not only innovative in the way that it builds playgrounds from the ground up, but also in their mechanisms for acquiring the resources and knowledge from long-established corporations. Moreover, KaBOOM! made a point to involve the partners in the physical building of the program, which allowed for a greater bond between the partners and the actual mission of the organization. These partnerships also became a part of KaBOOM!’s value added, thus allowing them to further differentiate themselves from their competitors.

            I have personally seen the importance of partnerships in business strategies while working as a market research analyst for a social innovation accelerator. One of the first social enterprises that I worked with made great use of local community development partners and non-profits in order to differentiate themselves from similar social enterprises and build off of the innovative capabilities of the partners. However, I think that it’s extremely important that partnerships and partner roles do not remain stagnant, but rather, they grow and enhance as the organization does. In the case of KaBOOM!, their desired strategy shift towards a the role of a community advocate will become another opportunity for it to outsource its innovation with its current partners perhaps through the creation of company-sponsored advocacy and education programs or seminars on the right to play. All in all, as much as KaBOOM!’s current partnerships help shape its current business strategy, they will play an even bigger role as it continues to grow and innovate.

[1] Davila, Tony, Marc J. Epstein, Robert D. Shelton. Making Innovation Work. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2013.

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