Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I have been working with a client that is improving an existing innovation program. Based on my prior work at IBM (where innovation has been a mantra for several years) and in my work on the Web2.0 phenomena I suggested that adding an external focus to the program would be a good thing. 
Examples are:
Procter & Gamble Connect+Develop

All of these have some differences but the common philosophy is that customers, suppliers, and business partners can contribute significantly to new ideas.
PLUS depending on how one manages the program the participants can feel they are "partnering" and helping to change the direction your company is taking.

Some of the challenges that must be addressed include:

Intellectual Property - P&G and Kraft encourage patent protection for the participant so that a straight forward licensing agreement can be negotiated. IBM keeps the ideas very general and uses the input more to set marketing focus.
Competitive Advantage - How much early development of products can be exposed without losing something to a competitor? Because P&G deals with specific ideas it prefers to keep the interactions 1 on 1. A participant can only see the problems P&G needs solutions for and only the ideas that he/she has submitted. IBM allows everyone to see ideas submitted but keeps the conversation at a high level.  I believe that an effective program should have tiered levels of participation. A general public forum and then an invitation only small group to take an idea further. The small group would be covered by a joint venture agreement.
Searching for Diamonds - A lot of ideas have to be evaluated in order to find the few that will be worthwhile developing into a product. Either a dedicated team of evaluators must be set up OR the community can vote for the best ideas. 

The trend is towards using the Internet to open the kimono and share innovation with a broad community.

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