What’s Your Innovation Reality?

I was recently reviewing some notes from a talk I heard almost two years ago – one that continues to inspire me – and now quides IMC as we evaluate our own clients and their ability to innovate through partnerships.

I was speaking at the M2Moms (Marketing to Moms) conference in Chicago and attended a workshop led by Steve Paljieg from Kimberly-Clark.  Steve was telling the story of the Huggies MomInspired program  – where “mompreneurs” submit their new-business ideas for review and winners get both a seed investment and mentoring from Kimberly-Clark. It is a truly inspiring program, built on insights both about moms being something more than simply diaper consumers and about innovation itself.

Some of the most exciting innovations are coming not from within companies (even within innovative companies) but from outside partners of all kinds, including customers themselves.  In the Huggies MomInspired program, as in Doritos crowd-sourced Super Bowl commercials, a brand is allowing its customers to co-create its next steps.  These companies are not just innovating; they are innovating the way they innovate.

While we haven’t yet persuaded a client to develop a crowdsourced licensing program, companies that support great licensing programs and build great new-product partnerships generally share some of the traits that Steve Paljieg identified in his talk (giving credit to the influential book “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson).

And I keep coming back to a check-list of questions he asked companies to answer called
“What’s Your Innovation Reality?”

Here are the questions – each of which you should answer “yes” or “no.”

  1. I have a perfect knowledge of my consumer and/or customer’s needs.
  2. I can see the future of my markets without ambiguity or uncertainty.
  3. All the best ideas occur within the walls of my business.
  4. I have too many resources to work on the things that really matter.
  5. I can pick out the best innovations before anyone else can.

Individuals or companies that answer “no” to any of these statements should consider how partnerships and co-creation fit into their plans for growth and new products.

Because the success of our work depends on building a great partnership with our own clients, we’ve started asking some of these questions ourselves.  Admitting that “no” is the right answer to most of those questions doesn’t just make for a good client; it makes for a company that is far more likely to benefit from licensing and new-product partnerships as well.

We live in a world where no one – including the owners of iconic brands – controls all the good ideas for innovation.  The more willing they are to embrace and support partners as co-creators, the more likely they are to grow their role in the hearts and wallets of consumers – and develop innovative new products along the way.

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