Your External Innovation Program Is Missing This!

Monday, 28 March 2016 07:33
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A bold prescription for making the most of external inputs


A new product typically requires two key components in order to successfully make it through the corporate gauntlet: a strong concept and a protective and persuasive product champion. Current corporate external innovation management processes don't cultivate either of these things. Is it any wonder that these programs uniformly fail to generate much heat?

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends...

Your External Innovation Program Is Missing This!

Many companies admit that their inbound external innovation efforts are largely unproductive. Simply put, companies that practice external innovation derive the greatest benefits from technical opportunities that they themselves seek out and manage. Why is this? It's not's because they know that they want and can recognize it when they find it.

Conversely, inbound external innovation efforts are generally unproductive. Why is this? Two key reasons. First, while some submissions are ideas targeted for stated company needs, many others are speculative...meaning that the submitter is guessing at the company's needs based on technology that the submitter controls. This approach rarely, if ever succeeds...especially since the submissions are reviewed by technologists versus marketers.

Next, consider external technology submissions. These inputs, even those from qualified, sophisticated providers are assigned to technologists to assess their technical merits relative to known alternatives. Given the exceptionally high standards that large companies have for technologies they consider, including breadth and depth of technical performance requirements, virtually all of these get rejected for various reasons, as well.

Here's a much more proactive, proven approach.

As opposed to viewing all externally submitted inputs through a purely technical lens, companies should treat them 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 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 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.

My corporate clients and I routinely collaborate and incubate the new product "seed" concepts we identify. These start with a key consumer insight, a technical insight and an enabling technology as their foundation. We energetically interact and build these ideas as our thinking evolves. As a result, these seed concepts often morph substantially and inspire additional ones. In the end, we have identified numerous stronger and more business-right new product concepts than where we started. Importantly, these are married with the most suitable and qualified enabling technologies.

My clients act as advocates for the strongest ideas. As we know, strong advocates are a vital necessity in order for any new opportunity to survive environments with corporate antibodies.

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, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that the overwhelming majority 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.

Oh, and by the way...I can help your company to adopt this approach. Ask me how.

"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.

Since 2005, BFS Innovations has helped its Fortune 500 clients with technology scouting, new business creation and business development services. Contact Michael today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 614 937-2408 to discuss your company's needs.

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