Tag Archives: Quirky

Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Last week GE and Quirky announced a new partnership where GE will make some of its library of patents available as part of Quirky’s new inspiration platform, allowing inventors to use some of its patents in their potentially novel consumer product invention ideas. This on its surface is a very interesting and logical open innovation partnership. Some people are talking about it as a crowdsourcing partnership, but it isn’t really because the work product is not well-defined and being sourced from multiple competing providers. No, this is an open innovation partnership.

Here is the Quirky and GE partnership announcement video:

It is very interesting to me that GE chose to partner with Quirky and not someone like Innocentive, NineSigma, Idea Connection or someone else. I’m curious what others think this indicates about the future of these firms. Personally, I think that this is something that Quirky is better equipped to make happen than these other firms, and that Innocentive and others still fill an important need using a completely different approach (challenge-driven innovation).

Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Whether or not GE creates any sizable new businesses from their participation in this partnership, I still think this is a brilliant marketing move by Beth and her team and it will be interesting to see whether any impactful inventions come from people leveraging GE’s patent portfolio.

Here is Quirky’s video announcing their inspiration platform (which they raised $68 million to help build):

There is one thing that bugs me a wee bit about Quirky. My tagline since 2006 has been “Making innovation insights accessible for the greater good” and it feels like they’ve swiped it to create theirs – “Making invention accessible.” Surely as creative people they could have invented their own tagline instead of swiping mine. 😉 (wink)

But, there is another idea of mine trapped in this announcement that I’d like to highlight and set free, and that is the idea that innovation is not just about ideas, but that other factors are equally important – including inspiration, investigation, and iteration. These are captured in my incredibly popular Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation framework.

Eight I's of Infinite Innovation

Be sure and follow this article link to the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation if you missed the link above, or if you’re not clicking away to learn more, here is a quick list of the eight stages:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Investigation
  3. Ideation
  4. Iteration
  5. Identification
  6. Implementation
  7. Illumination
  8. Installation

Personally I don’t think their platform appears to go far enough to deliver inspiration or to empower investigation, and as a software and internet guy I would be happy to help Quirky and GE strengthen the solution if they’re interested in making this platform more successful.

Will any successful innovations come out of this GE and Quirky partnership?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Image credits: GE, Quirky

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How Leading Organizations Manage Their Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing Efforts – Part Two

How Leading Organizations Manage Their Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing Efforts - Part OneIf you missed How Leading Organizations Manage Their Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing Efforts – Part One, you can find it here.

So what do leading organizations do to encourage the successful use of external talent?

They build a solid foundation:

  1. Seek to understand where the challenges will lie in the transformation
  2. Have passionate business owners
  3. Secure top level support
  4. Make a long term commitment to the use of external talent
  5. Negotiate master agreements with external talent providers at the center
  6. Create a common language of innovation and external talent
  7. Implement the processes and systems to manage and measure innovation efforts

They get strategic:

  1. Create an external talent strategy
  2. Make a plan for achieving the strategy
  3. Attach goals to the strategy (e.g., P&G’s 50% goal)
  4. Communicate the goals of the strategy and measure goal achievement

They focus on communications and ownership:

  1. Do not underestimate the importance of communications, education, and dialogue
  2. Create guidelines for when and how to use different external talent sources
  3. Have someone own and manage the external innovation efforts
  4. Have owners and champions in place in different business units or product groups
  5. Educate employees on how to engage owners and champions

They continuously reinforce their efforts:

  1. Recognize and reward those who go outside
  2. Weave external focus into internal systems (e.g., innovation system prompts)
  3. Get cross-functional input into problem definition and challenge formation
  4. Make resources available for integration
  5. Work to make the organization more flexible and adaptable

In addition, successful organizations understand that it is about making and maintaining connections and community – you build it for when you need it, instead of building it when you need it. Successful organizations understand that attracting and managing external talent is as important as finding and hiring the best internal talent, and are changing their budget allocations to fit this new paradigm. The role of HR in the near future will not be just to recruit, develop, and manage staff, but also to build and curate talent pools. The HR profession will have to build new core competences in network orchestration and managing talent – no matter where the talent lives (inside or outside the organization). It is time to start preparing.

Build a Common Language of Innovation

Before moving on to the final section, let us look at a few brief examples of different companies engaging external talent for business success and one case study of a leader pushing farther:

  • Threadless decided to base their whole business on external talent and build a community of designers and customers that they could leverage to come up with the t-shirt designs that they sell.
  • Quirky has taken the Threadless model of utilizing external talent to simultaneously make invention accessible and build a consumer products company. You submit your idea, the community curates it, the company evaluates it, and actually produces and sells the chosen inventions online, and even at a handful of retailers.
  • P&G went outside with a plastic technology and created a joint venture with competitor Clorox that focuses on trash bags, food storage, and related areas.
  • Intuit uses its Collaboratory web site to connect with entrepreneurs and to publicize their open innovation challenges, and their Labs web site to engage with the developer and customer communities to get immediate feedback on some of their experiments in order to engage in some level of co-creation.
  • Psion Teklogix has built one of the more robust corporate open innovation communities – Ingenuity Working – complete with a video from their CEO front and center.
  • SAP has started The Global SAP Co-Innovation Lab Network (aka COIL) with HP, Intel, NetApp, Cisco, VMware, and F5 Networks to facilitate project-based co-innovation with its members and to enhance the capabilities of SAP’s partner and customer ecosystem through an integrated network of world-wide expertise and best-in-class technologies and platforms.
  • MyStarbucksIdea.com is an example of engaging the creative energy outside your organization that most companies will not want to follow. They throw things wide open for all idea submissions, not focused on any particular challenges, for all to see. As a result, Starbucks exposes the company to the risk of brand equity destruction from not following through on suggestions. At the same time, this approach provides free market research for competitors and creates a lot of sifting and communications work for internal resources.

If you missed How Leading Organizations Manage Their Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing Efforts – Part One, you can find it here.

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