Building Connection into "Connect and Develop" Programs

Monday, 25 March 2013 06:30
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Most open innovation web portals currently offer users a pretty impersonal experience. By design, they enable the company to collect, circulate and review internally large numbers of external technology submissions without prematurely needing to directly interact with submitters. Unfortunately, while this hands-off approach is efficient for the program's administrators, because virtually all submissions are routinely rejected it contributes to users feeling anonymous and unable to build any kind of relationship with the company.

P&G has decided to shake up this dynamic with two new initiatives within its Connect and Develop (C&D) program. Both are designed to enhance the user experience, one more obviously than the other. The first is a re-fresh of the C&D website that makes the Company's published needs more clear. They are organized by business need, and provide more explicit information about the expectations for submissions (i.e. success criteria). In addition, external parties' submissions also directly reach business leaders (i.e. the parties whose support is essential to the adoption of any submission), in addition to just the technical folks. Previously, submissions were assessed almost solely on technical merit, and only by R&D personnel, which resulted in 96+% of submissions being declined.

In addition, P&G is currently beta testing a co-creation web channel to enable moderated collaborative idea building contests with cash prizes awarded to contest winners. See  The contests are judged by P&G cross functional team members, including a senior business leader, Marketing and R&D. In a conspicuous nod to humanizing the process, the judges' names, pictures and job titles are posted on the site.

These are encouraging changes which strike me as a meaningful evolution of the original C&D concept. There is likely more to them than simply a desire to enhance the user experience. I believe they are intended to: (1) greatly reduce the number of substance-deficient submissions, and (2) help P&G connect and develop external expert networks that it can subsequently be able to leverage in a variety of meaningful ways. I will discuss both of these initiatives in greater detail next week.

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