Sunday, June 18, 2006

Do companies like Kraft really understand?

Companies are talking more and more about "open innovation." Procter & Gamble has shown us how it can be done - being genuinely open and eager to outside innovation. So many of the company's new products were developed externally. Intel and Nokia are pushing the concept. Companies such as Jones soda, and Threadless are putting the customer in charge. Kraft recently said it would encourage ideas from consumers instead of automatically rejecting them as in the past, however good. Nevertheless, they have made the process so procedure ridden, threatening (they say that if the idea is not legally protected enough, they will take it and pay the submitter $5,000, thus declaring up front that consumers cannot trust them). It is clear that they just don't understand what putting the customer in the driver's seat means, and the attempt may well do more harm than good.

If you want to let the customer drive innovation, you must give him or her the controls. Allow the customer to innovate and be scrupulously ethical. While the lawyers will warn you to limit liability, the cost of this may be consumer trust and credibilty.

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