Collaborating with competitors

The 361° Initiative from A.T. Kearney predicts that collaboration with competitors will become an important success factor in the future. Do we have to rethink?

Digital networking such as Industry 4.0 changes industrial process worlds. But in the future, networking will be vital for the companies themselves. The study “Change or perish. An encounter with tomorrow's value creation” from the 361° Initiative from A.T. Kearney takes a look at Germany in 2064.

As digitalization progresses, the cards will be reshuffled. Competitors from outside the industry appear on the scene and throw their IT expertise in the ring. They question traditional supply chains. Their goal: disruption. The consultants believe that the best way for companies to prepare themselves for these game-changers is to form networks. As the A.T. Kearney Best Innovator competition shows, top innovators already rise above the masses by integrating their suppliers strategically into their research and development. Compartmentalization and secretiveness will not do. Instead of relying on their own strengths, companies should initiate know-how transfer outside their company. Also deliberately with former competitors.

The reason: “In the coming years, the competitive strength of companies will no longer be determined by the strength of their own value adding but by the strength of the value adding alliance that they build around themselves.” Collaboration on all levels is needed—and has to be organized. The aim is to overcome internal resistance towards involving suppliers and customers and, above all, competitors. Cross-company development is the key in order to keep up with the market dynamics—and to be able to ward off new aggressive competitors that appear on the scene. “As companies increasingly become open and, as a result, successful, the pull of networks will become so strong that, at one point, no market players will be able to avoid it,” is how the consultants summarize the situation.

The joint European and German research projects are already good networking opportunities for companies. And pre-competitive joint research is an established model for cooperation agreements between competitors. And last but not least, companies involved in photonics have been working together for some time in clusters such as OptecNet. In other words, there is already a solid basis on which the value-adding alliances of the future can build.

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