Diving for Pearls in the Innovation Pool

Monday, 17 February 2014 06:35
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Most consumer products open innovation (OI) operations are currently R&D led. Marketing defines its product Needs, which R&D then translates into technical Needs. R&D then scouts and screens technical leads based on this direction. It is no surprise that the vast majority of external leads are rejected...many without Marketing even getting an opportunity to consider them. While this approach works fine in most cases, it also can result in the regular loss of some diamonds in the rough. It doesn't have to...

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

Diving for Pearls in the Innovation Pool

R&D is routinely tasked with reviewing external technology submissions based on their understanding of Marketing's defined Needs. They weed out nearly 100% of unsolicited submissions and also the majority of the leads that they themselves scout. There are a variety of reasons for this, including lack of strategic fit, as well as other knock-out factors such as inadequate IP and poor technical substantiation. However, this sifting approach also can cause companies to reject potentially potent business building ideas as these too get rejected before Marketing even gets to consider them. Consider the following hypothetical example:

Creekwater develops and sells lip care products for the consumer market. They actively seek out new moisturizing ingredients that can make their lip balms more effective and appealing. Mark Smith, their R&D leader receives an external lip balm formulation lead. It promotes a younger looking appearance by quickly diminishing wrinkles on and around the lips much better than by moisturization alone. Marketing has not explicitly designated wrinkle-fighting as a strategic pillar, so Mark is prepared to ignore the lead as "off-strategy", even prior to examining the technology. Should he?

This example points out the need for external lead scouting and screening processes to incorporate a formal review step to enable Marketing to consider new product opportunities that may not correspond to approved Needs...separate from consideration of their technical merit. The idea behind the submission (e.g. distinctive concept, positioning) may carry greater inspirational value for the company than the supporting technology does. This in turn, can spark new product effort that might not otherwise have been considered.

This example is really not different from Marketing uncovering a competitive product inspiration on a retail shopping exercise, and using it as fuel for new opportunity creation discussions.

While acknowledging that there are IP considerations involved in this topic, what do you think?

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