Innovation Basics: 5 key reasons for innovating with your suppliers

By Michael Watkins

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Changing the world, one idea at a time has to start somewhere. Even the organizations that regularly bring about revolutionary change had a first step to take on their journey. In the Innovation Basics series, we focus exclusively on what that first step could look like for newcomers to the innovation world. Follow this guidance to achieve faster, better innovation.

To optimize innovation outcomes, an organization needs to improve every part of its operation. It’s common for businesses to improve processes internally, use customer feedback, or even generate ideas from an external crowd when doing this. However, often overlooked is the relationship companies have with suppliers.

The opportunity many are missing:

There’s a lot of room for improvement here in most organizations. This is, in part, because a lot of businesses occupy two roles in this relationship. It’s rare that a business is exclusively supplied to without being the supplier for other organizations. For this reason, supplier innovation drives appealing outcomes.

Key reasons for innovating with suppliers:

Across more than 20 years of helping organizations to innovate more effectively, we’ve seen a number of businesses turn to the relationship with their suppliers as a vehicle for progress. The reasons that inspire this include:

  • Attracts new suppliers: a business that is seen to actively engage and improve supplier relations is more attractive to potential suppliers.
  • A cross-pollination of ideas: the more eyes there are on a problem, the more ideas for improvement you’ll have.
  • Outlining existing pain points: collaboration between a business and its suppliers leads to greater dialogue on existing issues, with all parties having an interest in overcoming these hurdles.
  • Building a new way of working: the world of work is changing and these new approaches to collaboration and co-creation better prepares organizations for this shift.
  • Improved brand visibility: by opening an innovation program to its suppliers, a business gives problem solvers a better appreciation for how the business operates and what the brand needs are.


In this blog, we’ve introduced the concept of innovating with suppliers. We’ve shown how this forms an important part of any innovation program. Finally, we’ve outlined reasons that any organization should look to innovate with its suppliers.


Read the next blog in our Innovation Basics series: 5 key benefits of using an Idea Management Platform

Ready to scale up?

Check out our Guide and find out why your suppliers should be key to your innovation process

By Michael Watkins

Michael is Wazoku's Product and Brand Marketing lead. Away from the office, he's our resident film buff, so if you want some recommendations for a night in front of Netflix or a trip to your local cinema, get in touch with him!