How Sherwin-Williams uses open innovation to create breakthrough new products

scarborough-sherwinVictoria Scarborough says that after nearly a decade of overseeing the open innovation initiative at $11 billion Sherwin-Williams, one thing has become very clear: you can waste a lot of time “if you don’t have a clear focus on specific solving business needs,” she says, “and if you don’t have the needs identified and scoped out before you start scouting for technologies and partners.”

Sherwin-Williams, the Cleveland-based maker of paints and coatings, is also the largest operator of paint retail stores in the Americas, with over 4,100 locations. (In March, the company announced its intention to buy rival Valspar.) Scarborough, the Program Director for Sherwin-Williams’ seven-person Global External Innovation Team, defines her team’s mission as identifying outside “technology that would move the innovation needle.” That has involved academic research partnerships, and collaborations with outside design firms and companies like Church & Dwight Co., the maker of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.

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