External Innovation: Not the Same Old Song

Sunday, 27 December 2015 13:08
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In popular music, artists often construct hit songs by selecting a sampled guitar riff or rhythm to serve as their foundation. There is an art to building upon these external elements so that they retain their potency while the user creates something distinctive and powerful in its own right. So it is with external innovation.

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

External Innovation: Not the Same Old Song

Pop musicians are often inspired by a catchy guitar riff or rhythm created by another artist. These attractive elements can serve as the foundation that they build upon to create their own song. There are many examples of this, some more conspicuous than others.

Many of my clients have new product development needs that lend themselves to this type of approach. For example, it can involve identifying and licensing a distinctive technology and then working with external partners to incorporate it into a novel product execution. This type of collaborative product development work is often a creative art as well as a science.

Consider the following disguised example which illustrates this approach:

Acme Company manufactures and sells commercial floor care appliances, including vacuum cleaners and floor buffing machines. They've decided to develop and introduce floor care products that can be used with their appliances. This collection will include a wool rug treatment to help rugs to maintain their appearance despite heavy foot traffic.

Acme needs to figure out how to source this product. As Acme is an appliance company, their internal R&D capabilities do not include being able to formulate and manufacture consumables. They decide to commission a search effort to identify existing external products that they could license and introduce under their own brand name. This scouting work does not yield suitable options. They decide they need to develop their own product using available external technologies.

They assign a scout to identify attractive technology leads. Their search yields some promising finds. Among these, one pops out as especially appealing: a proprietary hair care technology that is proven to quickly and effectively repair split ends. This technology is currently being used in salons as a hair treatment. It also restores damaged natural wool fibers, as these can develop a form of split ends with prolonged wear. Acme works with the technology's developer to source this technology. They partner with a contract formulator/manufacturer to incorporate it into a suitable product matrix that is compatible with Acme's rug cleaning appliance.

Today, external innovation is often about more than just identifying technical solutions, though this remains an important aspect of scouting work. It is now also about devising strategies to secure necessary external capabilities and competencies and to successfully manage collaborative relationships.

"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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