Companies Should Nurture Unplanned Opportunities

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 06:30
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R&D routinely acts as the gatekeeper for external innovation submissions. They are well-positioned to judge whether an inbound submission is consistent with need, and also how it compares with other technical candidates and benchmarks.

While most external opportunities are disqualified for a variety of sound reasons, it is not unusual for R&D to receive ideas that may be worth considering, depite their not precisely fitting pre-defined technical or product needs. In these instances, they must decide whether or not to pass on the idea. Some will, because it's an "outlier". Others may choose to defer the decision and discuss it with their Marketing counterparts. In either instance, its fate is often decided without it being thoughtfully considered as a fully articulated value proposition.

Most external opportunities aren't a good fit and are justly vetoed. On the other hand, some opportunities deserve a better fate. In these instances, companies could benefit from their technical gatekeepers being adept at recognizing "diamonds in the rough". These intrapreneurs would work diligently to create well-developed "bundles" to share with their business counterparts. While some gatekeepers possess and exercise these skills, I suspect that many others don't.  

In my perfect world, gatekeepers would be trained and empowered to invest time (and resources?) to develop and flesh out ideas that they judge as promising. Call this an incubation function if you like. I think this is currently a missed opportunity for most consumer product companies. It doesn't have to be.   

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