Published on in TransportDigital Transformation

The mantra “two heads are better than one” has always been at odds with today’s competitive world of business.

Whenever collaboration or co-creation is broached in boardrooms or at events, you hear the same old excuses. “Oh, of course we would love to collaborate…but not on that. That’s our intellectual property. Those are our trade secrets!”

But in an increasingly global world, businesses can’t afford to hesitate. Doing so opens the door to more agile and innovative firms who will provide a personalised, seamless experience – meeting the demands of the new generation of customers.

Speaking on the third and final episode of our Fujitsu podcast series, Urban Mobility of the Future – Are we ready? Johannah Randall, Head of Station Operations for High Speed 2 (HS2), expanded on this concern:

“HS2 within National Rail is a bit of an outlier because you don’t actually see much collaboration going on; we very much work within our silos. I think that if the National Rail and other transport providers within the UK don’t start working in a more collaborative way …then in the future we’re going to be a less attractive service, a less useable one, because other services are going to come along and make us do it.”

So, with all that said, in this blog we’re going to examine:

  • Why your firm needs to start collaborating
  • Who you need to be collaborating with
  • And how collaboration can lead to amazing results

Collaboration and co-creation can conjure up the kinds of innovative ideas which not only have the potential to make London a smarter, more connected city, but may ultimately save your organisation from becoming the next Kodak, strolling into obsolescence…

Give the customer what they want

There are many factors pushing transport organisations in the direction of collaboration. And yet, the majority of organisations are dragging their feet. Why? Because many see the act of collaboration as giving something away for free.

However, when you partner with a competitor to improve a service for your customer, it benefits you too. As Robin Gissing, innovation technologist at Heathrow Airport theorised:

“I think rail is going to benefit a lot from autonomous vehicles. I talk to a lot of people about how to get transport to work and projects to get as many people as possible onto public transport, and a lot of people say stuff like they just can’t get to the station without using a taxi.

“But if you could book an autonomous car service that took you and a few others to the station, on time, I think stations would benefit massively from that. I can’t see how they wouldn’t.”

This prioritization of the customer has propelled many Asian transportation industries far past what we have in the west. Sure, in London we have Oyster cards offering a degree of seamless travel within the city. However, when compared to Japan IC Cards, our service seems woefully inadequate.

IC cards such as Suica and Pasmo are prepaid travel cards that allow customers to journey on every railway service in the nation, along with most other forms of public transport, including busses and airport shuttles. They can even be used in shops, restaurants and any of Japan’s numerous and diverse collection of vending machines.

“in Asia, for rail, they don’t necessarily see it from a tech point of view”, elaborated Randall. “They just completely look at, “what does the customer want?” I’ve done various trips around the world comparing European high speed and stations to America’s and Asia and asking the question “why do you do it that way?” When you ask the Japanese this question, they kind of give you this quizzical look before saying, “because the customer wants it”.

“I know it’s not really a novel idea, but everything they do is so focused on the customer. So, if you take their smart card; they had individual companies that weren’t integrated with each other and soon realised the customer didn’t like having to deal with half a dozen cards, so they worked together to solve it. They still work in their silos when it comes to their commercial interests, but they came together to overcome that hurdle.”

When transport providers come together to innovate better customer experiences, they are rewarded with higher rates of customer satisfaction and patronage.

Trains are used significantly more in Japan than in the west with 48% of people there using it to commute to work. This is in stark comparison with the 13% of Europeans and 3% of North American workers who do the same.

Stop fearing change

The sense of reticence that still surrounds collaboration is becoming more and more irrational with every passing year – and it’s holding our transportation industry back.

It really doesn’t take much more than a sense of openness and willingness to provide customers with a better experience. And the sooner firms start to evolve their business models, the better for us all. As I explained on this episode of the podcast:

“From the Fujitsu point of view, it’s all about diversity. Diversity in thinking, in background, in age…everything must be taken into consideration when we are collaborating. It’s not about Fujitsu in the room, it’s about Fujitsu and others being in the room. So, often we’ll have our competitors there because they want to be part of the solution and we would rather have that dialogue, come up with a value proposition and fix it.

“But it’s about backing up what we are trying to do with stats, research and support. Not just having an innovation session for the sake of it; there are tangible problems that we are trying to fix.”

Understanding the perspectives of as many people as possible is fundamentally important to any organisation hoping to make it through the next decade intact.

The world is changing at a staggering pace – and you’re going to need all the help you can get.

To hear more about how we’re using co-creation to fuel innovation, listen to the podcast ‘Urban Mobility of the Future – Are we ready?

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