Ask Us Anything Webcast, with General Mills & Citi Ventures

January 17, 2020

Some of the member questions in this webcast included:

Do you put any value on innovation certifications, like GIMI or IAOIP? “I don’t think that’s what we look for,” Devin said. “We put more emphasis on the ability to be curious and collaborate, and bring new ways of thinking about tackling customer needs and problems.” 

How do you set up a strong enough metric to know, as a corporate innovation center, how well you’re failing or learning? Aune responded that “we definitely believe in embracing what we call productive failure — ideally on the earlier side of things — faster, sooner, cheaper. I’ve heard others talk about it as ‘the speed to the truth.’ The sooner you can find out that something is not working, the sooner you can let that go and move on to something that is working. There is also a cost to inaction.” But Aune said there is no specific measurement related to failure at her company.

Devin added, “You’d be hitting the ball out of the park if five percent of your innovation efforts — especially if you’re looking more at Horizon 3 — were successful. … If you’re truly experimenting and exploring different things, you’re in a territory of taking high risks.” More important, she said, was creating a culture where “it’s OK for people to talk about what didn’t go right,” and capture patterns that you see, so the organization as a whole can benefit from the learnings.

What have you done to get more funding or people for your initiative? “What I have seen work really well is piloting and proving it out,” Aune said. “That works extremely well at General Mills. I’m also very careful about the funding requests, just because…there are other ramifications of increasing your budget before you’re quite ready.” Only scale something when you have evidence that it is working, she added.

“We really look to…our business partners participating in the resourcing” of projects, Devin said. “We think it’s important that they care about it…and that it’s in line with their overall strategy.”

What skills and resources do you see as uniquely needed for doing Horizon 3 innovation? “You need people who are curious, genuinely passionate, and interested in learning new things,” Devin said. You also want a lab or environment that will support hands-on experimentation with technology that hasn’t yet been “proven out.” That can be challenging in highly-regulated, risk-conscious organizations. Sometimes, she said, partnerships with external organizations can be helpful for doing that sort of work.

What’s the role of innovation management systems in your organizations? Devin said that her team has built its own tools internally to track ideas moving through different stage-gates, and that Citi Ventures also relies on collaboration tools. Similarly, Aune said there is no third-party solution for innovation management at General Mills, but they use internal systems and collaboration tools.

What’s your advice on running challenges and getting ideas through the pipeline? “Open innovation challenges aren’t for the faint of heart,” Devin said. They “take a lot of work to prepare and plan… What’s the overall objective? How are you going to attract people to participate…and most important, what’s your plan after the challenge? Have you thought about the way to get those ideas into your pipeline? … You want employees to know that their ideas are going to go somewhere.” 

Check out our roster of upcoming webcasts, and archived replays, here.