With this effort General Mills appears to be taking its innovation process to the next level. With many large iconic brands, a portal like this is a great way to activate its greatest asset: millions of loyal customers who surely have numerous ideas on how to improve GM’s products. However, initiatives like this are difficult to sustain and often last as long as its internal champion is in office.
How successful will this initiative be? Here are some key elements to consider:
- How open will GM be in regards to its needs? The innovation opportunities section lists several broad areas of interest, such as reducing bitterness in whole grains. However, they all seem to be industry-wide areas of interest which I can envision its competitors are also pursuing. Openly requesting innovation ideas can be a tricky process; GM has to balance how much it openly shares in regards to its strategic new product development interests with the need to maintain secrecy and competitive advantage.
- The External Filtering Process: Without a doubt, the company’s millions of customers will see this as an opportunity to share their insights with GM; along with their frustrations. The key here is to filter out what’s really meaningful from an NPD perspective versus what are customer service issues and opportunities. GM lays out a submission criteria early in the process, which should help.
- Validating Ideas Internally: Once a product concept makes it through the external filtering process, the internal team needs to move toward concept selection and validation. An internal cross-functional team currently meets on a bi-weekly basis and is the key to making this whole initiative work. How they select ideas, including which additional strategic filters and what type of market research to use, will determine whether GM will see a return on this portal’s investment. Internal fighting is common with cross-functional teams, especially if the organization has traditionally operated in functional silos; so, selecting the right team players is important. Also, will decisions be made solely on “gut” feelings, or will marketing research be used? These matters need to be seriously considered and resolved in order for the real opportunities to rise to the top and result in new products or ingredients.
Looking forward to reading your comments!