While most of you may be familiar with the products such as Yoplait greek 100, natural valley protein bar, fiber one 90- calories brownies , and the recently released Fiber One Soft-Baked Cookies , what you may not have know was that these products are a success thanks to open innovation. As you might have guessed, General Mills is one of the world’s largest food companies. It’s marketed in more than 100 countries with net sales at 17.8 billion in 2013.
Mills adopted open innovation (GWIN) 7 years ago with some of their successful open innovation products in the market winning the most innovative product 2013 by consumer good technology magazine. GWIN open innovation partners range from large corporation to small company and individual inventors.
Mike Helser, a senior manager at GWIN, in a recent interview declared that open innovation helped them deliver innovative products to the market more quickly. A problem they had in the beginning was not being specific and clear about the challenges they wanted to solve in order to find the right partners. But they solved this problem by creating the GWIN platform that clearly articulated the technical problems where the visitors were invited to submit non confidential proposals. This brought them closer to 1000 inventors worldwide and around 500 proposals in the first year.
General Mills has challenged its teams (who are rewarded for their collaboration) to be more connected throughout the innovation process, both externally with outside partners and suppliers as well as internally among divisions and cross-functional teams. The snack division was the first to embrace this practice and a huge encouragement came from the enthusiasm of the leadership.
“Open innovation is the key to keeping up with trends like better-for-you snacking. We don’t have the internal expertise to do everything, which is why we need external partners to help us deliver products that meet consumer needs. We absolutely would not be as successful without open innovation.” Piacek- LIanes , VP of research and development.”