Posted by mdf4u on June 28, 2010
Industry data indicates external technology submission reviews can take 4-6 weeks, and will overwhelmingly culminate in a rejection decision. Valuable corporate resources are expended on these reviews. With annual submissions per company continuing to climb, I suggest that companies should consider ways to review and reject them much more quickly.
I suggest that companies should examine their external submission review processes to enable faster rejection. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that this be the primary objective. There may be time and resource-efficient means to identify and disqualify unsuitable opportunities. In doing this, companies can reallocate resources to higher value activities.
I suspect that dramatic reductions in review cycle times can be achieved if review teams run their “last experiments first”. That is, consider the consumer/business opportunity posed by the submission prior to formal technology assessment. Under my proposed system, after an initial sift to remove obviously unsuitable opportunities (e.g. way off-strategy, inadequate IP, etc…), external submissions would be screened by a business team, instead of by R&D alone, as I perceive is the most common current practice. Rigorous assessment of the technology’s credentials would initially be set aside.
Under the proposed system, a review team would first decide its interest based primarily on the potential consumer/business opportunity. If the team rejected the opportunity, there would be no point in subjecting its technology to formal review. This would result in a much faster rejection than if the technology were reviewed first, its eligibility being based upon compatibility with a set of “Technology Needs”. Conversely, if the team favorably viewed the opportunity they could prioritize technical review based on interest level. For instance, assume that a personal care products company received a submission for a “patented, effective, non-invasive, painless cellulite reduction method”. The company might not have previously articulated this as a technical need. However, a review panel could view this as a very attractive business opportunity. The technology could then be assessed by R&D. This could either result in a “hit”, or it could inspire an energetic technology search effort. A potential negative for this approach could be to reject high quality technologies obscured by poor positioning. I think these instances are possible, but are likely fairly uncommon.
The objective of any process re-engineering should be to achieve more efficient utilization of internal resources. I recognize that my remarks betray my lack of knowledge of the inner workings of corporate external submission review processes. Some companies may have already identified and implemented similar, or even better approaches. My purpose here is to stimulate thinking on this important topic. I welcome your thoughts…especially you corporate “insiders”! Please share.
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Posted by mdf4u on May 24, 2010
The following story is fictional. However, I’ve applied and proven the priniciples described in client engagements. I hope it prompts you to think about its potential applicability to your business.
Mary Sellers, Marketing Manager with an OTC products company wishes to pursue new products for young people suffering from Blackberry Thumb. Blackberry Thumb is a repetitive strain induced hand injury caused by excessive text messaging. Mary’s research shows that significant numbers of young men and women (aged 13-19) suffer from this condition. Further, trends show double digit annual growth rates. Importantly, there are no products being sold at food/drug/mass market retailers that specifically address this condition.
Mary and her colleagues have concept tested topical analgesic products. These are similar to many available OTC products like Aspercreme and Ben Gay, but are positioned as being specially formulated for Blackberry Thumb and other repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. The results are generally favorable, but consumers do not perceive the products as especially unique. After consulting with an orthopedic surgeon, R&D manager Joe Hale suggests a regimen consisting of the topical remedy, intermittent cryotherapy and joint stabilization to help address pain and swelling associated with Blackberry Thumb.
Joe contacts bfs innovations (!) and asks me to identify some potential solutions for him to evaluate. Drawing inspiration from other industries, I contact a company that uses a flexible silica gel technology in cold packs for physical therapists. Joe fashions a demi-glove prototype using this material. It provides excellent relief without causing discomfort.
Mary is very encouraged by Joe’s thinking and the productprototypes. She incorporates the “Cool Hand” concept into qualitative consumer research. Young male consumers in particular, are very enthusiastic about the new idea. They see the system as truly different and something that they personally would use. They liken the glove to “wearing a cast” “…it’s like a war wound”. They also like the topical remedy…”It’s for me…it’s not my parents’ medicine.” Mary and Joe have identified a promising product system that a significant portion of the target audience finds appealing! They realize that their work isn’t done, but they sense that they’re on the right track.
I trust that this example helps describe the possibilities of applying external innovation in creative collaborations. You’ll note that in the example above, external innovation was introduced during the concept development process prior to the product concept having been fully defined. When Marketing and R&D collaborate early in the concept development process and incorporate well-reasoned external inspiration, they can create exciting product options. Contact me if you’re interested in discussing and in employing this approach. You’ll be glad you did. It works!
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