R&D Gatekeepers as Product Champions

Monday, 23 May 2011 06:30
Blog author: 

Beyond demonstrating technical competency, I assert that open innovation R&D gatekeepers also should act as product champions. They should be empowered to recognize, build a case for, and advocate select external submissions as fledgling new business opportunities. The following example dramatizes my point, applying a real-world technology.

Consumer beauty care product Company A and Company B each receive an external submission for a cellulite fighting formulation that contains a patented fat-burning peptide. Its performance has been dramatically proven in a well organized consumer trial. Company A's R&D gatekeeper notes that "body treatments" are not on their "technical needs shopping list" and declines the submission. Company B's gatekeeper takes a very different approach.

While body treatments aren't among her company's technology wants, she hypothesizes a compelling, on-strategy, facial beauty care application. She believes that the technology's demontrated effectiveness on adipose thigh fat could be used to treat double-chins. 

She conducts a retail market survey and concludes that there are currently few effective products of this type. She inquires with the technology provider who reports that their own low-base size consumer testing in this context showed encouraging results. She then organizes and fields a low-cost, online concept test among target consumers. Panelists express high enthusiasm for such a product provided: "it is proven to work", and "won't cause saggy skin after the fat is dissolved from my face".   

Now, Company B's gatekeeper has the basis for a meaningful discussion with her business team and the data to make her case. She pitches the opportunity to them. They become enthusiastic about its promise. Marketing begins to put together the shell of a business case to support development of a facial serum.   

In innovation as in baseball, we get hits only if we swing the bat. I encourage companies and their gatekeepers to swing the bat more freely in pursuit of hits...including aiming for the fences.

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