Imagine …

You have one great customer … a shoe manufacturer. They create shoes that are worn by the world’s great athletes. I’m talking Michael Jordan. I’m talking Tiger Woods. I’m talking Serena Williams. Cathy Freeman. But there’s more. Many more. It’s like a star-studded cast of top tier athletes that are not just "at the top of their game", they are making history.

And this customer, working with these sporting icons, these star athletes, have transformed the way that we look at sport. They have transformed our own participation.

These days we treat our own fitness as if we were professionals. We spend hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. If we have the money we can dress the part. Even if we can’t BE the part.

These brands, their ambassadors and their customers have changed the game. They have blurred the line.

Gavin speaking 2Last week – as part of the Hargraves Institute’s Innovation, Leadership and Transformation conference – I delivered a keynote address on Open Innovation: Using Social Media to Build and Maintain Momentum. I shared the approach that we are taking with the SAP Premier Customer Network – to not just think or talk about open innovation, but the concrete steps that we are putting in place to enable and facilitate it.

“Blurring the line” is a fundamental tenet of this approach and what I am increasingly calling The Social Way. Where once organisational performance was achieved through a co-opetition framework, we’re now seeing (and supporting) new models of innovation that closely resemble the social networks that we use at home, at work and in the places in-between.

It’s still early days for the programs that we have in place. But one thing is clear. We need to cling to our stories. And we need to tell them passionately and persuasively. For if we just rely only on the facts and figures, we miss out on the hearts and the minds who drive any innovation within our businesses.

The hard part with any business program is getting to the start line. Many believe that’s where the project ends – but in the social world – and the world of open innovation – the launch is the start of everyone else’s journey. And that is perhaps as it should be.