Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making a hash of the Soup

It's not often that you can find a "live" case study to discuss innovation and how not to do it, but we have a live example at Campbell Soup. First up, a tip of the hat to Stefan Lindegaard who wrote about this first. Before you accuse me of kicking a company when they are down, well, check out the Campbell Soup Idea site, and then let's discuss the opportunities and challenges therein.

First, we should offer up praise for the fact that people with Campbell's are trying to gather ideas from external partners and customers. They've definitely taken the first step in an external innovation activity. The question we are going to ask ourselves now is: did they do a good job?

From what we can see, the answer is a definitive "no" for the following reasons:

1. In the introduction Campbell's notes it has many smart scientists, so they probably have already thought of your idea! Quite a downer.
2. When you click "Submit your Idea" the first page that is presented is a legal agreement. While most external communities have a legal agreement that states they will "own" the IP and you agree to give up rights to the idea, this agreement and its presentation is bound to discourage many people from going any further.
3. You are next asked to provide contact information but it is unclear why. If Campbell does not like your idea they tell you in no uncertain terms they won't provide feedback. Strangely enough for a contact form, my email wasn't required! Also, you are not "signing up" to submit to the system, just providing contact details for the one idea. There doesn't seem to be a concept of an active community.

Once you add contact details you are then requested to enter an idea and categorize the idea. The list of categories is overwhelming and aligned to business functions or lines of business within Campbell. There is no concept of tagging or providing other contextural information. Once the idea is entered, a final screen is presented which asks if you own the intellectual property rights. What if there aren't any intellectual property rights for the idea you submit?

After I submit my idea I am informed that I may hear from Campbell's in three to six months if they like the idea.

The problems with this site are many. Campbell's doesn't suggest areas of need or interest, so many ideas they receive won't align to their needs. They actively discourage ideas from being submitted early in the process with their language and emphasis on legal agreements, and once the idea is submitted I have no control over it. I can't see it, comment on it or others or influence it in any way.

Ultimately this is a black box which will probably prove less than successful for Campbell's. Given many successful examples of idea communities, it is surprising that Campbell's took such a narrow view of the idea community.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:46 AM

5 Comments:

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