Going digital? Check this out

The tried and tested model for innovation is to get either your existing team to create new products and solutions - like a vibrant, cutting-edge digital presence, or hire a team of bright young sparks with a mandate to think outside the box and come up with innovative and exciting new propositions. That's old hat - new age innovation has embraced an exciting concept called open innovation - crowdsourcing innovation if you like - which gets great ideas from everywhere, and gets solutions on the table quick and cheap. Let's take you through a great example of open innovation and then see how to apply these insights into a key aspect of your business - your quest to build a vibrant digital presence.

Pringles Prints - a great case study of open innovation

Here's how Pringles - P&G's best-selling potato wafers embraced open innovation for its fun new innovation - Pringles Prints. In 2004, P&G launched a new line of Pringles potato crisp with pictures and words-trivia questions, animal facts, jokes-printed on each crisp. In 2002, one of the ideas that came out of a brainstorming session on how to make snacks more novel and fun was a suggestion to print popular culture images on Pringles. Although it was considered a great idea, executing it was a challenge. Company scientists realized that every crisp would have to be printed as it came out frying, when humidity and temperatures were still high. Multiple colors would be required and the image resolution had to remain sharp on the crisps in order for customers to read the image. The product required edible dyes which had to meet food safety standards.

Finding printing technology that could handle edible food dyes and not get clogged was a challenge. Initially, P&G approached a printer company to devise the process and over a year, wrangled over the intellectual property rights. It was intended to be a joint collaboration but the printer company wanted to retain all the patents. Frustrated by the cumbersome negotiating process over the intellectual property rights, the company began to seek alternative approaches.

P&G decided to use the open innovation approach and circulated a brief to a network of institutional and private contacts. The public brief defined the challenge and the problem that needed to be solved. Through their European network, P&G discovered a small bakery in Bologna, Italy, run by a university professor who also manufactured baking equipment. He had invented an ink-jet method for printing edible images on cakes and cookies. The company licensed the process and adapted it to Pringles Prints. Within 8 months, the product was on grocery shelves and Pringles Prints grew the company's revenues by 14 percent in the first year. With the traditional approach, it would have taken P&G two years to develop the product and required a considerable financial investment.


Food for thought

Many advisors are now very focused on going digital. Some are developing their websites, others are enabling their websites with transaction capabilities, many are developing mobile apps for their clients and some are venturing into closed social groups of their clients. When going digital, why not embrace open innovation? Don't go by templates provided by suppliers - go the crowdsourcing route to determine what should go into your new app, into your website. Use open innovation to get the best ideas from everywhere - it could be your clients, it could be prospects, it could be bright young college students, it could be your own team - just about anyone who can contribute meaningful ideas on innovative features for your digital presence. Throw in attractive prizes and "jazz-up" the initiative using your social media presence.

You can be pleasantly surprised not only with the kind of out-of-the-box ideas that come in which can make your digital presence truly unique, but also with the spin off benefits of a whole new young and dynamic image for your brand among your clients and prospects groups.


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