Interview – Moises Norena – Whirlpool Corporation
I had the opportunity to interview Moises Norena, Director of Global Innovation, Whirlpool Corporation, about open innovation participation, strategies, and barriers to innovation success.
Here is the text from the interview:
1. Do you feel that companies need an innovation strategy? If so, where does open innovation fit in?
I don’t think that having an innovation strategy is an option for companies, it is a requirement, especially in consumer segments. Innovation is the path to sustainability and growth. Innovation can be seen differently depending on which company you are looking at. There are companies like Apple that live innovation, that is what they do, Innovation is their strategy. Companies like Whirlpool, that have existed for 100 years, require an explicit innovation strategy, that translates into actions that people take, that force the change in behavior to stay relevant.
Open innovation (OI) is a way to exponentially expand your ability to generate ideas and develop them. I believe open innovation is a subset of the overall innovation strategy and tool kit. You can use OI in your discovery phase to generate ideas. You can also use OI to develop technologies or even to commercialize something you’ve created that others can use. Companies should think of open innovation as an element of their innovation strategy but not forget the internal organizational elements and management systems that are necessary to succeed in innovation.
2. Why is it important for organizations to consider participating in open innovation or why did your organization begin its open innovation effort?
It is important for organizations to consider participating in open innovation because having different perspectives creates new opportunities. Also because you leverage the resources of others, increasing your ability to deliver innovation. For example, Whirlpool has worked on refrigerators for many years. We create new organization, larger capacity, better cooling systems, etc. I am sure that food manufacturers see the refrigerator in ways we don’t. When you put those two together, new things can emerge. The real challenge with OI is to establish the mechanisms that allow this interaction in a productive way in which there’s a win-win situation AND that there are aligned goals both externally and internally.
3. What should an organization be aware of if they decide to pursue open innovation?
That this requires a shift in mentality. That is easier said than done. This involves the interaction of different people within your organization that will be threatened. You got to be able to show the win and show that there is management of the risks associated with OI. Organizations should also know that OI can provide real benefits but it should be managed in a way that complements with the internal efforts, not as a substitute.
4. What is the most important culture change for organizations to make in order to support innovation?
It depends on the organization. I see two important cultural shifts as necessary to make innovation work: The first is being able to manage both the short term and the long term within business units. This is challenging given the business priorities and to have a balanced portfolio really requires leaders to drive a change in their teams and organize in ways that allow this balance. The second thing I see, that is also very important, is the shift in mentality to do experimentation – this requires a big change because organizations have the tendency to expect the experiments to drive a business results and in fact, they should be designed to learn. That is a big change.
5. What are some of the biggest barriers to innovation that you’ve seen in organizations?
I think one of the biggest barriers is that there are conflicting business priorities in organizations. To overcome this barrier, innovation has to become an imperative and a priority AND be managed as part of the business operations. When that is done, this alleviates some of the issues that emerge from working in silos, which is in itself, another barrier that innovation commonly faces. In today’s world innovation is taught in schools and companies have their own approaches to drive innovation. I believe that organizations should adapt one approach and drive it, bringing new approaches all the time slows down the machinery.
6. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?
I think it is important for managers to learn the mind sets and behaviors to drive innovative thinking and growth. This includes understanding the value of the innovation process, experimentation as learning tool, portfolio management. As my colleague Deb Mills-Scofield says, learning to ask the dumb questions. I think that it is also important to learn how to assess and select talent, and create teams that are balanced in creative and analytical skills.
7. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation work force of tomorrow, what would it be?
I think the answer is already there, the Montessori system fosters curiosity and creativity. It would be hard to move the whole system to a model like that, but I think there are many elements that can be leveraged as the system evolves. Sitting in a desk for eight hours does not create innovators.
Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.