Hello Dear Readers

I’m amused and intrigued at at this growing trend among corporate giants to solicit ideas from consumers via open calls for innovation. The other day I noticed Reckitt Benckiser’s R&D challenge to create innovative ideas that would appeal to music festival goers. No doubt a contest  inspired by Woodstock’s 40th anniversary  (BTW, I was there…but that’s a whole ‘nother story!).

The RB challenge is explained in a video which gives little direction as to the nature of the product ideas they are looking for. Participants are invited to send in a video clip pitching the idea and rationale and the public can vote for their favorites. Thus far the winner, with 348 votes, is “The Cosy Place,” a big waterproof blanket that can connect with other blankets at a festival.   I’m sure the reasons this idea has garnered so many “thumbs up” are the high production values of the video, the attractive male spokesperson and his two curvy female sidekicks engaged in a mock brainstorming session.

Now is The Cosy Place a good idea for RB, and one they’re likely to pursue? I doubt this fits their corporate competencies or business model, however there were other submissions, less attractively presented, that seemed more on target.

What I appreciate about this call for open innovation is that it will force corporate members to stretch their thinking, and perhaps even the most far flung ideas will be the springboard for a viable and innovative idea for the company.  In my experience, innovative and feasible results emerge when you bring  expertise and “naivety” (those unfamiliar with the details of a business) together. We work hard to orchestrate this blending of talents in our client or consumer team Innovation Sessions. And  it works best when  client team leaders provide good direction and a foundation (but without a lot of constraints) from which members can collaborate together.

So I wonder whether contests and challenges like this will prove fruitful in the long haul.  It’s easy to generate a lot of ideas, it’s harder to create those that are novel and are implementable. Aside from strategic business fit, there’s the issue of employee alignment. I’ve long experienced that “people support what they help to create.” Ideas that are solicited from outside sources may not have as good a chance of being lovingly developed and nurtured by corporate employees through the challenging new product development process.

What do you think?

2 Responses

  1. Welcome to the blog-o-sphere! And thanks for your RB piece. It ties very nicely into a piece I am working on about Walkers, the biggest crisp (chip) manufacturer in the UK and part of PepsiCo — they had an extremely successful campaign that allowed consumers to develop a flavor for potato crisps — and then people voted on their faves. The developer of the best one (called Builder’s Breakfast!) won “royalties” on the product sales.

    Thanks for finding me a good parallel example.

    • Hi Marcia;

      So glad to be helpful! Another piece you might want to look into is P&G just posted a contest for 100 favorite ways to enjoy Pringles.

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