Yep. We’re talking product, not content.
A stray message from MyCustomer (a subscription from a past, e-CRM oriented era) shines the light on the way Electrolux is using outsiders, specifically university students, to come up with innovative designs (the article is here). The way they do it is essentially a publicity stunt, but it seems they’re finding that some of the ideas that those students propose over time make sense: they’re making their way into real the product development process.
Their chief PR man for Europe says: “Innovation is the key driver for success – in terms of differentiation, in terms of escaping the commodity trap and in terms of driving growth and profit. (…) Design Lab has grown from something that was created to deliver PR value into much more of an incubator for our own innovation processes and design population – as well as positioning us as an interesting employer for design people.”
It’s a long way from there to open innovation… but it’s a fine example of how forgetting about the «not invented here» mindset even for a moment can be quite productive.
Ask Procter & Gamble about it ;-). Their Connect + Develop program is working serious wonders, as they documented in this white paper. But it takes something more than a PR gimmick: they aim to «be the absolute best at spotting, developing and leveraging relationships with best-in-class partners in every part of» their business, and a magnet for people and partners who can add value.
Not something you do easily. But something at least remotely similar is needed in any firm that attempts to be best (using all available knowledge to improve) not just better (using only internal resources).