Ken Klimpel, Colgate Palmolive’s Worldwide Director of External Innovation and Outreach shares his perspective on some aspects of the approach he and his company take to drive their open innovation successes.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to some corporate colleagues to inquire about their experiences in implementing open innovation.  Ken Klimpel, Colgate Palmolive’s Worldwide Director of External Innovation and Outreach kindly shared with me his perspective on some aspects of the approach he and his company take to drive their OI successes.

Many companies have adopted open innovation (OI) as a key component of their overall product development strategy. Some find it this change more culturally challenging than others. Colgate Palmolive has always viewed itself as a formulator of externally derived (supplier) technologies, so OI is closer to business as usual for them than for others.

I recently spoke with Ken Klimpel, Colgate’s Worldwide Director of External Innovation and Outreach about his company’s experiences. He shared with me his perspective on Colgate’s success.While we didn’t discuss specific case studies, I don’t doubt Colgate’s effectiveness in employing the sensible approach that he described to me. Here is some key learning from our discussion:

According to Ken, external innovation works best when the technology seeker is transparent in enabling the provider to understand clearly what is necessary in order for their technology to be seriously considered. Seekers like Colgate typically seek to de-risk the bets they make on external technologies, so their efforts are focused on minimizing their finanical expsoure at an early stage while guiding and influencing work.

In effect, the seeker aims to “steer” the provider to a defined and understood desired state while clearly placing the onus on the provider to assume the investments needed to achieve it. The provider gets to decide whether or not they wish to sign on for the mission before they start making these investments.

The new insight for me was when Ken described a surprising way in which Colgate can add value for select partners. While Colgate does not typically assume the costs for a prospective provider’s development work, they may inform them about possible sources of fundsavailable through government small business grants.

Further, Colgate may aim to help improve a grant application’s success prospects by contacting the agency that reviews them. In doing so, Colgate will express its interest in the provider and suggest that the grant would help enable a businessrelationship between the two parties. In some cases, this gesture can help tip the scales in the applicant’s favor. Ken reported that one such applicant recently received a $1MM grant.

There are numerous challenges inherent in making external innovation work. Colgate’s approach increases the odds that there will be a good partnering experience, irrespective of whether the parties decide to do business together. In my estimation, that is a very good thing.

By Chuck Frey

About the author

Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.