I noticed a new product in the Sunday newspaper coupon circular. It was for Stouffer's seasoning wraps. Here's a quick video that describes the product:
Why did this catch my eye? A few years ago, I was representing this same technology (or a version of it) to prospective corporate customers, without success. But someone at Stouffer's undoubtedly championed it. This provides the inspiration for this week's message:
Most consumer product companies evaluate external innovation submissions primarily through a technical lens. Meaning, submissions are assessed for their technical chops before business folks even take a look, if they ever get to do so. What's wrong with this approach? Potentially strong business ideas get abandoned before they are even seriously considered.
As opposed to screening all externally submitted inputs through a purely technical filter, companies should request that submitters provide a "positioning" as well as technical input. This will enable the company and its business people to treat the input as creative fodder.
Rather than technical personnel primarily filtering and screening technical inputs, a cross functional team comprised of marketing, technical and design personnel would instead draw inspiration from them in order to derive maximum value. The team would use these inputs to spark new ideas, including some that the submitters may not ever have anticipated. Importantly, these would be informed by the team's intimate, "insider" knowledge of what is on-strategy and/or brand right. This way, instead of a (current) 99+% rejection rate, companies could identify a large number of new product and business opportunities inspired by these external inputs and in some cases, technically enabled by them.
Going back to the Stouffer's Seasoning Wraps example, my point is not whether or not this is a good business idea. Rather, it is that the business people ought to be able to evaluate the idea and make this determination, rather than to have it screened out by technologists who don't feel that it is technically worthy (for whatever reasons).
In summary, submissions received from external sources currently don't receive the tremendous benefits of incubation and advocacy that internally developed concepts do. In the absence of this, virtually none of these currently go nowhere. I propose an approach where companies treat external inputs as rich sources of creative inspiration to help fuel identification of great new business opportunities. This approach also cultivates idea champions to navigate the strongest opportunities through the corporate gauntlet.
"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.