Does 3M talk about idea contests? Well, none of these folks talked about idea contents. That does not mean that they don’t have idea contests. However, “idea contests” don’t form a core in their innovation effort. Then what do these companies consider important as a basic building block? The answer is: Platforms. In fact, Bert of 3M showed us a “periodic table” consisting of 45 platforms. Some of these platforms were: adhesive, filtration, microreplication. Bert also presented the mapping of platforms to businesses. For example, 3M has 40 businesses and adhesives platform is used in 24 out of 40 businesses (filtration is used in 8/40 and microreplication is used in 16/40). While DuPont does not have as many innovation platforms as 3M, Homi said it does have dozens. In contrast to 3M and DuPont, P&G innovation effort is consumer led. P&G innovation platforms are anchored in basic human want such as thirst, hygiene, beauty etc. Moreover, P&G is good at using the same platform and creating different products at different price points in different markets (e.g. developed vs emerging).
Innovation platforms: Instead of asking the question, are we generating ideas? Or are we conducting idea contests? Ask the question, what innovation platform(s) are we building? What is it anchored in? Perhaps answers to questions like these will lead to “sustainable innovation”.