How to be Open to Unsolicited Ideas While Staying Responsive and Efficient – Insights from Clorox

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Written by Dr. Andrew Gilicinski who leads Open Innovation Networks at Clorox, working with partners on breakthrough new products. Prior to Clorox, he worked in innovation roles at Gillette and Air Products.

For years I’ve watched open innovation evolved, impressed at the growing array of tools and capabilities. At Clorox we focused on supplier innovation relationships (Win-Balancing) for downstream “seamless” technology creation, a “Lab without Walls”. However, we’ve been slower to adopt external idea portals to engage inventors, for two reasons – time and fear.

Time – with limited resources, could we fast enough assess submissions in a timely way? Fear – that painful negotiations and custom deals with inventors would jam our legal team. This week, we’re trying a new process that tackles both.

To solve for resources, we partnered with an outside firm specializing in inventors (Evergreen IP). They have a strong gut for inventions that could yield a successful product, and efficiently work with inventors and their ideas in a scalable way.

To solve for fear of dealmaking gridlock, we crafted a “standard deal” for inventors that features fair and fast compensation tied to the degree an idea is prototyped and IP protected. No unrealistic expectations on either side, and the standard deal drives frictionless engagement – focusing us all on making the invention successful so we can win with the inventor.

On May 7, the “Got an idea?” link finally got onto Clorox’s website – wish us luck!

We’re also trying an experiment with soliciting inventor ideas in businesses looking for specific innovations, again through a partner (Edison Nation).

The scalability and standard deal features will be applied to a powerful outreach vehicle to bring in ideas where we see opportunity. This is a real culture change – letting the world know about our needs in various businesses and learning to walk the balance of confidentiality vs engaging the world’s innovators more directly.

I’m hoping this will give us the best of all worlds – scalable resources to assess ideas quickly, access to more of them, and a streamlined way of doing more deals. I’m sure we’ll stumble as we learn our way to a more open innovation culture, and I look forward to sharing those learnings – and hearing your feedback and thoughts. Thanks for reading!
by Stefan Lindegaard

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