A Loaf of Bread, A Bottle of Wine...and Innovation?
Like many of you, each Friday evening, my wife Lee and I enjoy going out to dinner to relax at the end of another work week. I feel that this week's dining experience was noteworthy and had particular relevance to the topic of supplier-aided innovation.
Lee and I enjoy Indian food and we agreed that it would be fun to try a restaurant that we hadn't previously visited. So, we traveled from our home in the 'burbs to downtown Columbus to dine at Indian Oven. Entering the restaurant, we were encouraged by the bright and open environment and contemporary décor. We were further enticed by a very appetizing menu selection and choice of delectable-sounding special dishes described to us by our server. They also featured a varied wine list.
This is where things got interesting. I had ordered a bottle of wine to accompany our meal. The owner approached our table with two bottles, including the one we had requested. He indicated that we would enjoy the wine we ordered, but based on the spicing of our dishes, he suggested that the other bottle would represent a better pairing. We accepted his recommendation and were extremely pleased with this choice. This, along with our delicious meals has convinced us that we will return to this restaurant soon, and will recommend it to others.
How does this experience relate to supplier-aided innovation? Consider the following example from a meeting that also occurred last week. My client and I had a call with a technology provider from one of the U.S. National Laboratories. We had never previously dealt with him or his organization. He had developed a patented technology that we felt had particular applicability to the housewares industry and cookware specifically, even though it was not currently being used for this purpose.
In speaking with the developer, we shared with him that we were interested in applications of his technology for use in cookware. He discussed with us how his technology could be used with cookware, including the various benefits that it would provide relative to current materials. He also described a number of other housewares-relevant use applications, included some uses that we ourselves hadn't considered. Our call concluded with us agreeing to evaluate his material in several of the use applications we discussed, including one of the unexpected ones he suggested.
I have had this type of experience on multiple occasions, so I know that it is not unique. The learning is pretty clear: large companies can often approach conversations with untested potential suppliers warily. They can tend to provide the suppliers with extremely limited information due to their caution. This is understandable, but it can also be quite limiting in terms of inspiring supplier creativity. I have found that if one provides new prospective suppliers with sufficient information (and time) to enable them to suggest relevant solutions, we can be pleasantly surprised with what they recommend...even if it isn't precisely what we might have come to the conversation seeking or expecting. This can require us to step a bit further outside of our comfort zone than we might initially desire, but even so, it doesn't require us to divulge confidential information, either.
I suggest you give this approach a try. Or, give me a call and we can discuss your needs.
"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.