Great Companies Know It's About "Filtration" NOT Evaluation

It’s important to realize that in our system, we separate “Filtration” from “Evaluation.” We believe strong, well-thought-out filtration significantly reduces the burden on R&D organizations to evaluate or even develop products or technologies that never should have entered the new product development process in the first place.

This is important enough to restate: We believe that your focus should be 80 percent on filtration and 20 percent on evaluation.

Most organizations have it backwards: They spend 80 percent of their time evaluating and 20 percent filtering, which, at the very least, leads to a lot of wasted time, and at most, to poor decisions and bad products, especially if the filtering process I just described doesn’t happen at all.

The reason so many organizations focus on evaluation over filtration is that it requires a great deal of discipline – the discipline of customer focus, the discipline of innovating to customer needs, the discipline to say “no” in a way that removes risk from the idea creators. The result is a haphazard approach of dealing with what comes in the door. The wrong things get early focus and attention, and many of these things ultimately get tossed out later on in the development process if not by the marketplace.

I believe that an idea or technology should be highly vetted – at a high level – before any team or resources are used in its evaluation.

Filtration is best developed through the creation of what I call toggles. Toggles are the questions that go into the 20 or 30 key components of success or at least the relevancy of an idea of technology submitted to, or within, your organization.

Toggles are gate-keeping questions designed to “vet” the external source and filter out innovations (or innovators) that don’t fit. To create toggles, you first need to come up with a broad and deep understanding of what you want from your outside contributors; then a sequence of questions and filters that get you and the inventor to that “want” list. The thought process might look something like this:

Suppose we have a small medical startup company looking to build its ophthalmic surgical adjunct business. They want to create an automated innovation portal to go out and aggressively look for new technologies. But because they’re small, they have limited resources to evaluate those technologies. So, in this kind of case, you would sit and look at yourself and ask, “What regulatory class am I looking for? Is it an FDA Class I? A Class II? Or a Class III?. Since it’s a surgical adjunct company, they may be looking at innovations that are only Class I or a Class II. What about stage of development? Again, in this case, they may only want products that are in a mature stage of development. What about patents? Are they really looking for concepts? Products that are patent pending? Or products that have issued patents? The list goes on.

When we build an innovation portal for a client, we can have anywhere between 15 and 30 simple questions a submitter can answer; the list does two very magical things. First, it provides a quick, comfortable environment for the inventor to submit an innovation, and importantly – without disclosing any intellectual property. You don’t have to worry about non-disclosure agreements, nor spending hours on the phone with someone who could be a crazy inventor or a general malcontent. You simply send people to a site that honors them and gives them an easy way to submit their idea.

Now suppose you’re the ophthalmic company and someone comes in and presses the “Class I” button. They’re okay. Suppose they press the button for Stage of Development and they’re okay. Intellectual property status – they’re okay, on and on down the list. If they hit the “go/no-go” buttons and they all say “go,” then the product or enhancement has already been pre-filtered for you. So the innovations that come through this firewall are innovations that specifically connect or “dovetail” into your innovation platform.

For the ones who do not go through, a mail-merge response comes back : “Thank you for your submission. There were four areas that don’t meet our requirements, however, we appreciate your submission and would like to give you this gift of an educational CD, or a Starbucks card, or something else as consideration. This is to give you the reputation of treating innovators well. When an innovator honors you with a submission, you should give them something in return.

Great companies develop a reputation for true and genuine openness, and the beautiful part of automated innovation portals is that they do not require you to spend time on the phone, your inventors are pre-building and pre-vetting the technology, and you don’t have to worry about the legal issues associated with intellectual property disclosure.

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