Procter & Gamble is notorious for its open innovation platform connect + develop, the craddle of Swiffer and other co-innovated products. We recently stumbled upon a very interesting video posted by Chuck Frey from InnovationTools.com, who interviews the managing director of the pionneering engagement platform, Chris Thoen. We want to share some of the most interesting thoughts that he expresses… Chris Talked at the CoDev & Open Innovation Conference 2010 and emphasized that open innovation goes beyond seeking out new technologies – which was P&G’s initial objective. « For the consumer, it’s broader than that […] it’s about what is the best next product experience, says Thoen, it’s about the best overall design of a product, getting the product to the consumer in the best possible way […] both on the shelf as well as when they’re using it« . This means that it has to be more than an opportunistic attitude of squeezing out ideas out of peoples’ brains. There has to be feedback from the brand, as well as credible incentives to participate, otherwise brands will miss the opportunity to create an (oh so important!) ongoing relationship with consumers.
Don’t open a portal in you don’t have the back store in place
This is why P&G has a dedicated group of people who monitor submissions and get the good ones to the right place within the organization. The more reactive P&G will be getting back to submittors, the more these people will put effort and time in collaborating with the brand. « We’re currently targetting to have about 30 to 45 days response time » says Thoen about connect + develop. According to this well-documented blog, more than half of the submissions lead to product or service innovation, which is an impressive figure.
Initially, for this type of initiative, metrics were essentially quantitative : number of deals, proportion of initiatives that integrate external input etc. But now that P&G has what Thoen calls an « open culture« , the focus has increasingly shifted on value creation, both for the campany and for the contributor. « It’s more about doing fewer opportunities, but make them bigger« , he says. Prahalad & Ramaswamy already talk about it since 2004 and their book The Future of Competition : the competitive landscape has evolved. « In the past it was how good are our own internal R&D people in finding and developing […] it’s now more about how do you position yourself in the open innovation market towards potential partners that have solutions« . So competition will be much more about (1) finding the solution first and (2) set up a relationship with that potential solution provider. More than quick feedback, the « partner » expects a genuine win-win situation. Not only because it sustains a climate of trust between the two parties (an ongoing relationship where that partner feels he’s getting value for the solution he brought) but also because, in our connected world, negative press runs very fast. « Everyone now has many more tools to make the ‘uneasiness’ known to a broader group of people« , says Thoen. He concludes the brief interview by giving some advice to companies who would be tempted by open innovation initiatives :
- Understand where you’re good and what you already know internally
- Know what you want to keep inside vs. what you want to open up to solvers
- Have that backstore to deal with solutions, solvers will expect rapid feedback !