As I was doing some company research for an upcoming interview with General Mills I came across this part of their website. It's called General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network or G-Win. The whole concept of the program is very similar to the concept InnoCentive uses. For those not familiar with InnoCentive, this is a site that links companies who have problems they cannot solve with people who want to solve these problems. Of course the winning idea receives a substantial amount of prize money from the companies who submit a problem. General Mills has taken this same underlying idea, but are instead going directly through the company website.

One thing that stood out to me the most was under the "submission process" page. General Mills offers the opportunity to collaborate on the problems if the solvers feel it could be of help. My Marketing 440 class just discussed a case about InnoCentive switching to collaboration. Most people felt it would not help the amount of problems solved. Does anyone think the collaboration option would help General Mills and G-Win?

This General Mills Program makes me wonder if other companies are taking this initiative and posting their own problems on a company run website, instead of a site like InnoCentive, in hopes a solver will figure out their problems. Maybe I will stumble upon more companies using this problem solving concept as I research more companies in the future!

This video by Steve Johnson does a nice job of illustrating, pun intended, innovation. I particularly like his inclusion of the history of innovation, noting that both collaboration and collision of ideas is necessary for innovation to occur.
You can view the video at

It is easy to assume that the level of user created content on social websites is exploding like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Our recent discussions regarding user creation and innovation can only lead us to believe that this online imagination will no doubt foster the futures of many new businesses.

Not so fast. In a study done by Forrester Research, it appears that the number of so called social media "Creators" has slipped one percent in the US from 24% in 2009 to 23% in 2010. Findings show that while the number of new users has increased eight percent, the percentage of people contributing new content has stagnated.
Are contributors simply experiencing "creation block" or is this a trend that requires closer examination?

Afraid of Needles?

Many of us are fearful of needles, and as a result, often delay visiting the doctor or dentist. Also, needles (through misuse or accidents) are responsible for spreading many life threatening viruses such as hepatitis and HIV. This new product by Pharmajet is designed to solve these issues via a new drug delivery technology that is entirely needle-free. It appears to be both safe and effective. The medical community is often a late adopter of many innovations, so it may be a while before we see a Pharmajet in our local doctor's office.

Having nearly completed our unit on the sharing model of user contribution, and having just completed my first batch of homebrew (see picture), I've become pretty jazzed by the idea of potentially letting my creation be evaluated (scorned? adored?) by someone who knows better than I. After a quick search, I found a way to accomplish this: the Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest.

In essence, the competition, soon-to-be in its sixth year of existence, encourages user-submitted contributions as long as they meet one requirement: that they are defined to be "Category 23." The Beer Judge Certification Program defines 22 categories of beer, leaving "Category 23" open as one for brews so creative that they simply cannot be categorized into any other.

It's refreshing to see a brewery that prides itself so much on its own traditions open to the potential of nationally distributing an uber-funky beer; it's even more refreshing that this concoction will be rendered via user generation. My beer's secret ingredient must be kept under wraps...who knows, someday I (or any one of us) could make it big!

Fast Forward

The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry has devoted a whole exhibit to the innovations and inventions of the future. Fast Forward is a time machine into how our future lives are being shaped today. If you have never had a chance to go to the exhibit, I would definitely recommend going! Some of the inventions include cuisine made by printers!

As a business school student, I often figured my "dream job" would entail a big corporate building with a little office to call all my own. Maybe even an office with a view of something besides a parking lot, if I'm lucky. Thankfully it looks like a few business are realizing that a little inspiration can go a long way. My newest concern is that my future workspace includes a slide and faux hot tub. I think they'd do wonders for my innovative spirit.

Check out the top 10 non-traditional workspaces

A third grader from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin invented a curved bratwurst bun. The major point of this article is that anybody, including a 9 year old can be an innovator or inventor. You just need to be able analyze the world around you and ask yourself the right questions. Sometimes the simplest ideas can be the smartest ones!

Have you ever walked into Walgreens looking to buy a cheap card for someone’s birthday and ended up buying one of those expensive singing cards because for some reason you thought it was worth the extra 4 dollars to have the recipient possibly remember it. Well that is the exact theory behind Volkswagon’s new marketing strategy they unveiled yesterday in “The Times of India.”

Some may say this is a great way to grab readers attention as Moulin Parikh stated, “One of those rare days when ppl in #mumbai will buy times of india to see (also hear) the Volkswagen advertisement and not for news,” but after this initial innovative marketing ploy will people really enjoy this type of ad.

The idea is brilliant since Volkswagon was the first and was the talk of the town in Mumbai for an entire day, which there are very few ads in a newspaper or in general that are able to create that much hype, but I don't think followers will be as succesful. In my opinion, in the future I would have to take out that page and set it somewhere separate from the part I was reading and in the back of my mind be thinking “Thanks Volkswagon for now officially making reading the daily newspaper quite annoying.” Maybe that is what companies will go for, whether good or bad, but this seems like a very expensive way to just get their name in the back of readers minds. That being said I am looking forward to what other companies come up with to try to top the talking advertisement.

Design with an Impact

When one thinks of The Colbert Report, lately they think of "keeping fear alive." Months ago, however, Stephen Colbert interviewed a very interesting person. Emily Pilloton, from Project H Design (, discussed innovation on a socially positive level.

The interview features some interesting and innovative products that can make an impact on many around the world. What's your favorite design?

Being a self-proclaimed music connoisseur and, consequentially, a bit of a music snob, the idea that her (mainstream) weirdness, Lady Gaga, is building the future of the music industry admittedly freaks me out a bit. In an article posted in The Washington Post today, contributor Joe Frontiera gives five reasons as to why today's biggest musical phenomenon has developed into a driving force behind all that is pop.
Whether or not I look to Gaga as the fountainhead of cool and chic is beside the point; it is important to glean that Frontiera has a couple interesting points about what fuels innovation. In the section discussing how Gaga has conquered the Internet (her "Bad Romance" video has over 281,000,000 views on YouTube), the author claims that it is her transparency with fans that has allowed her ideas (although they are typically shocking enough) to stand out from the clutter. Additionally, in the section discussing the Haus group (her inner circle of collaborators), Frontiera goes as far to say "every innovator needs a devoted team." Coincidence that we have touched on these topics in class? Probably not.
So, ladies and gentlemen, here is a woman who gets innovation (yes...she is wearing a dress made out of meat - taken from the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards):

Rah, rah, ah, ah, ah
Roma, roma ma
Gaga, oh laa laa...
Want your bad romance

Recent research by the Nielsen company (a long-time benefactor of the WSOB) provides new evidence that senior managers of CPG firms are more likely to harm (rather than help) innovation. Interestingly, a firm's innovation efforts seem to be harmed by even being physically close to to a firm's headquarters. Although this news release doesn't provide an explanation for this effect, it is likely that most senior managers share little in common with their firm's average customers. Thus, they are likely to have little direct knowledge of their customers' needs. To address this knowledge gap, a growing number of CPG firms such as P&G and Kraft are allowing their customers to become more actively involved in the innovation process.

Desktop Manufacturing

I was admittedly skeptical when professor Rindfleisch first introduced the concept of 3D printing and exclaimed that it had the potential to change our lives. How could something possibly begin approach the impact that the internet has had on our lives?

Then, on my daily skim of the NYTimes homepage, I ran into this video which put the phenomenon into a little better perspective for me.

It literally amazed me that they could 'print' items with somewhat complicated moving parts and multiple components. I was personally under the impression that it would be limited to static 3D representations of images, not fully functioning motor devices.

Given the speed of which technology advances itself, the prospects for 3D printing now seem endless. I think there is little question that the printing will become more complex, bigger, and faster as money floods in for development. Moreover, the materials the printers are able to use will undoubtedly become more diverse and bionic. After watching this short video, I really do believe the possibilities for 3D printing could be life-changing and are rather exciting to think about.

In the past 25 years, technological innovations and developments have been rampant, what can we possibly imagine for the next 25? As internet access continues to get faster and more widespread, we can expect it to play an even larger role in our daily lives.

"The Cloud" refers to all the pooled, virtualized, computing resources and services delivered over the web. This includes e-mail, entertainment, social networking, blogs....the whole intangible world that exists beyond our earthly existence. This article explains that within the next 25 years, nearly all data will be somewhere out there on the information super highway.

I suggest you skim the article and fathom the possibilities.
Here's a few potential breakthroughs I found particularly eye-opening:
a database of global DNA samples and medical histories
no more hard drives
no more wallets: your ID, credit cards, address book, business card all scannable on your mobile device
Grocery shopping...with a virtual cart

Check out the top 25 list here.

Learning from LinkedIn

When it comes to most user-contribution systems, there is no financial compensation offered to users. Companies rely on the intrinsic motivation of the consumer. The article posted provides evidence from several "volunteer" translators that some users where quite confused as to why they were not offered any form of pay when they contributed to LinkedIn. LinkedIn says that it was just a misinterpretation. So who is right? Would the translators' willingness to contribute to change if they had asked consumers to "co-create" instead?
As more and more consumers offer their knowledge and innovative ideas to organizations, I would like to predict that more issues like this will arise. I think companies will need to be even more transparent in their motivations for getting users to contribute. Legal issues may occur and companies may find themselves in a dispute over who actually owns the "co-created" product or service.

Why do People Co-Create?

Co-creation (e.g., Wikipedia, Linux, etc.) typically depends upon the voluntary contributions of hundreds or thousands of individuals who provide their ideas, time, and energy without direct monetary compensation. This activity runs counter to traditional economic theory and is often viewed with considerable skepticism (i.e., "What is wrong with these people ?").

A new book, "Cognitive Surplus" by NYU professor Clay Shirky tackles this issue directly. In addition to reviewing prior academic literature on why individuals freely contribute to co-creation efforts, Shirky adds a new twist by arguing that many individuals have a "cognitive surplus" (i.e., time that we typically waste watching TV and surfing Facebook) and that the application of this surplus to co-creation activity provides individuals with a greater sense of accomplishment and well being.

Here is a link to Shirky's book on Amazon:

For those who prefer articles to books, here is a short synopsis of Shirky's basic ideas from an interview with Wired magazine:

For those who prefer videos to articles, here is a TED video of Shirky's basic ideas:


Est. 2008 | Aric Rindfleisch | Wisconsin School of Business | Banner Image by Bruce Fritz