Groupe SEB, a French company that produces small household appliances in association with large corporations and small startups alike, has launched a new open innovation portal at www.innovate-with-groupeseb.com.
The site proposes to allow people from all over the world to submit ideas, and allowing companies large and small to connect with these innovators to move toward collaborative business relationships.
Groupe SEB’s Chief Innovation Officer, John Christophe Simon, said, “The Innovate with Groupe SEB website offers three different types of initial collaboration: proposing an invention like a technology or a potential product, joining Groupe SEB innovation network to be identified as an expert in a given field, and answering to challenges organized around specific requirements defined by the Group.”
While the quote and inferred top-level support is necessary, it's not sufficient for open innovation success. I'm actually more intrigued by the following quote, not in their press release, but placed directly in their site by Gérard Durand, Innovation Process Manager:
“Our relations with our innovative partners are characterised by transparency, proximity and trust. Within our Innovation division, the team dedicated to open innovation follows up and supports every partner individually. We have established processes for submission and evaluation of innovations that guarantee that your case is processed in the best possible manner within the timeframes set. If collaboration is confirmed, this team will become your preferred contact and will support you during the entire progress of the project.”
They atleast understand the importance of speed and transparency with partners. I've seen too many programs than run external partners through a mysterious gauntlet of reviews, with little to no feedback on progress. These reviews can run over 3 months in some cases. Then too often it's a "no" without any honest feedback on rationale. These companies quickly develop the wrong reputation and become not the first stop but the last in the list of prospects pursued by brokers and inventors. If Groupe SEB lives up to their promises in the statement above, they'll be well ahead in the race to become the partner of choice.
The SEB portal also has an area for 'joining our network'. On its surface, a very good idea, but I suspect they've gone about this like most companies who try to build a database of inventors and partners. They treat it transactionally and not as a true relationship-based network of innovators. Rather than collecting names with a sign-up form, they would be much better served to create a 'curated' network, i.e. an 'exclusive club' of partners that come from previous programs and a more strategic outreach program aimed at the technology areas they've already identified as of interest. I've experienced the power of this approach and hope that Groupe SEB takes their 'network' concept to the next level quickly.