Gorrell, C. (2012), "Case Open innovation helps Whirlpool discover new market opportunities Amy Muller and Nate Hutchins", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 40 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/sl.2012.26140daa.007Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Case Open innovation helps Whirlpool discover new market opportunities Amy Muller and Nate Hutchins
Article Type: Quick takes From: Strategy & Leadership, Volume 40, Issue 4
While innovation at Whirlpool is pervasive and the innovation process has yielded great success, Whirlpool realized that it could benefit from tapping into the large talent pool outside the company. Spurred by the desire to get innovations to the market faster, and by the need to gain deeper insights into its customers, Whirlpool began to augment its current innovation system to make it more open.
ApproachThe Whirlpool approach to open innovation is a thoughtful overlay to its existing three-step innovation process: insight/idea generation; idea development; commercialization. Whirlpool thinks of open innovation as a complimentary set of principles and tools – not a “new” approach to innovation. In its open innovation “toolkit” are the “macro-tools” of crowdsourcing, partnerships, technology scouting, technology brokering, and consumer collaboration. At a more granular level, the “tools” used are basically a set of questions and discussion guides that help to inform the decision to go “open” or not at each step of the innovation process (see Exhibit 3 for screening questions).
Maintain a balance of open innovation and internal innovationOpen innovation is not the answer to everything. By overlaying open innovation tools on their existing innovation process, Whirlpool is able to evaluate in a very deliberate way where and how open innovation can help it achieve its goals in each step of the innovation process. In general, Whirlpool relies on internal innovation more in the familiar spaces of appliances and seeks partners when exploring adjacent or complementary spaces. The example of how Whirlpool worked with outside firms and consultants to develop its affresh appliance cleaning products is explored.
Benefits of open innovation at WhirlpoolBesides accelerating and streamlining the path to market, Whirlpool also realized another benefit: a new point of view. The question: “do we have the competences to do this?” has been supplemented with the question: “if not us, who else could provide the necessary competences to do this?” By changing the context to competences within any organization, the company is now considering and pursuing a number of opportunities that would have previously been rejected, and Whirlpool is successfully expanding its business to adjacent spaces through the help of open innovation partners.