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Could “Not Found By Us” Be The New “Not Invented Here”?

Posted by mdf4u on April 19, 2010

In considering various open innovation success stories publicized by consumer products companies, I am unaware of a single example of an unsolicited external submission that has reached market.  

On a personal level, until a couple of years ago, I had been a fairly prolific submitter of technology opportunites to corporate open innovation portals.  While I accept that screening processes are highly rigorous, and the odds of success are slim, I still expected at least something to pop.  In five years, not one of my dozens of submissions progressed beyond second pass screening.  In addition, none of my peers who have made unsolicited submissions to corporate portals has met with any success, either.  What could we be doing wrong to be so monumentally unsuccessful at this?   Are our submissions so markedly inferior to proactively scouted finds?  While it’s entirely possible…it does seem somewhat unlikely. 

With a couple of exceptions, all of my scouting successes have resulted from proactive searches done in behalf of, and in colloraboration with my corporate clients. This is consistent with industry data which shows that the vast majority of proactively scouted searches yield viable leads.  Beyond the insider knowledge that informs these searches and improves their precision, I also suspect that proactively scouted “finds” very likely invite internal champions who help shepherd them through the assessment stages. As most of us know, championed innovation candidates have far greater survival rates than those lacking advocates.

This causes me to raise two essential questions: Does proactive search invite internal advocacy?  (I believe it does.)  Do unsolicited external submissions have internal champions? (I strongly doubt it). 

If I’m right, then “Not Found By Us” is an artifact of existing open innovation portals and current corporate evalution processes.  There’s already a low percentage of potentially useful ideas that enter open innovation portals.  I believe this significantly lowers internal expectations for anything received through these channels.  I also believe that current open innovation evaluation processes don’t enable or encourage idea incubation and/or internal advocacy.  Put simply: I believe that unsolicited submissions have no sponsors, and as a result, they’re likely to die.

I strongly encourage companies engaged in open innovation to consider whether they may unintentionally be allowing at least some potentially attractive opportunities to get away, simply because there’s no one to fight for them.


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