I am no longer surprised at the profound impact that well executed, functional prototypes can have in shaping an evaluator's perceptions. It is truly remarkable how a strong prototype can generate energy, emotion and passion in a way that even the most eloquent verbal or written description alone cannot. As so much external technology screening currently occurs with only written words, I can't help but feel that there are quite a few opportunities that are being missed because there isn't a good mechanism for sharing and presenting them.
I understand why this problem exists. Most external technology submissions enter into innovation portals as written, electronic files. It is the most efficient and practical way to process them and to share them with internal colleagues. This can be fine in many or even most cases. However, in some instances it may not be...especially when a submission's merits can only be fully appreciated by experiencing a physical prototype, without being fully reliant upon written word and/or images alone.
Case in point: I am currently representing a proprietary color matching strip technology that enables customers to very accurately match the color of paint, fabric or even cosmetics. It is superior to any existing method, including the use of color swatches, paint chips, digital representations, or even physical sampling. It accomplishes its task in a very elegant and unique way.
We have presented and demonstrated this technology to different prospects across various product categories via WebEx, video conference, and in-person. Live, in-person demonstration has by far, generated the greatest customer interest and energy. I am all but certain we would not have earned similar interest if we had submitted it using conventional means. By virtue of the relationships I have built with certain companies, I am able to circumvent traditional submission processes on occasion. I doubt that too many other people enjoy this special handling. (I am also careful so as to not abuse this consideration).
Should technology providers invest in developing and submitting prototypes to companies before they even know if the customer will be interested in the technology? This question is even more pressing in instances when a technology would greatly benefit from being demonstrated live and not simply submitted to a technologist for evaluation. Do proper mechanisms exist to encourage or even allow live prototype presentations? Even if they do exist, are the right persons assigned to conduct the evaluations?
I don't profess to know the answer to these questions. I do feel however, that what I have described represents a very real challenge (and opportunity) that deserves serious consideration.