Internal Collaboration Can Extend Innovation Value
Last week, a business colleague shared with me that he is making progress with a large consumer products company (CPG) in his efforts to license to them a particular application of his bacteria signaling technology. It provides a rapid visual cue to signal the presence of select bacterial markers. (For instance, think of a dental floss that can rapidly signal users that they have gingivitis. Or, a bandage that can signal an infected wound.) He then described to me the specific bacteria being targeted for the CPG application.
Being familiar with the CPG involved and having a pretty good idea of its technical wants/needs, this information prompted me to assume that they were considering a particular product category and usage application. As it turns out, they are working on a very different category and usage application. However, unless one business unit was to communicate with the other the details of the technology and this disclosure was sufficiently descriptive to prompt ideation of this (or other) particular alternative usage application(s), the company would not realize additional benefit from it. Therein lies a potential problem: I suspect that it is unlikely that this type of cross-divisional information sharing and transfer is currently occurring in any deliberate or coordinated manner.
This real-world example invites a fundamental question about corporate knowledge management in this era of external innovation: do companies internally share sufficiently descriptive information about externally sourced technologies so as to enable and encourage employees from different brands and categories to identify multiple, alternative product applications for them, and thereby extend their value? I'm not referring to unsolicited external technologies, many of which are not sufficiently mature to be worthy of much serious thought. Rather, I'm referring to qualified technologies that the company itself has scouted through its own proactive efforts. If they aren't already doing so, they really should so as to capture substantial incremental benefits.
What are your thoughts?