GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation

GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation

Last week GE and Quirky announced a new partnership where GE will make some of its library of patents available as part of Quirky’s new inspiration platform, allowing inventors to use some of its patents in their potentially novel consumer product invention ideas. This on its surface is a very interesting and logical open innovation partnership (no, not crowdsourcing). It isn’t really crowdsourcing because the work product is not well-defined and being sourced from multiple competing providers. No, this is an open innovation partnership, and so the key question in my mind is. Will it work?

If you’re new to open innovation, be sure and check out A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing edited by Paul Sloane (free sample chapter), to get a good grounding in the open innovation and crowdsourcing elements of social business.

Will the public collaboration with Quirky achieve the goals that GE has in mind for the open innovation partnership?

The premise of the partnership is that GE is making a portion of its patent portfolio available for the inventor community on Quirky to use in the creation of new inventions. Quirky is calling the place where the GE patents will be shared, their inspiration platform, but will looking at patents inspire inventors? Is looking at patents enough to inspire people, to truly create an inspiration platform?

Here is the Quirky and GE partnership announcement video:



It is an interesting development in the open innovation ecosystem to see GE choose Quirky as a partner for this effort and not someone like Innocentive, NineSigma, or Idea Connection. Personally, I think that this is something that Quirky is better equipped to make happen than these other firms, but Innocentive and the others mentioned above still fill a very important need using their completely different challenge-driven innovation approach.

One of the biggest challenges I see to a patent-driven, intellectual property driven approach to inspiration like this is that patents are written in a very technical, very structured way that unless you are well versed in their structure and how to extract the key pieces of instruction from them, that they can actually be a barrier to inspiration for many people, not an inspiration. It seems to achieve the intended purpose that some kind of information transformation to truly make them accessible for inspiration. Will GE and Quirky take the time to do this?

Do you agree that it will be necessary to encourage successful inspiration?

GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation

Whether or not GE creates any sizable new businesses from their participation in this partnership, I still think this is a brilliant marketing move by Beth Comstock and her team and it will be interesting to see whether any impactful inventions come from people leveraging GE’s patent portfolio.

Here is Quirky’s video announcing their inspiration platform (which they raised $68 million to help build):



But, there is an idea trapped in this announcement that is very important to me that I’d like to highlight and set free, and that is the idea that innovation is not just about ideas, but that other factors are equally important – including inspiration, investigation, and iteration. These are captured in my Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation framework.

Eight I's of Infinite Innovation

Be sure to follow this article link to the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation if you missed the link above, or if you’re not clicking away to learn more, here is a quick list of the eight circular stages:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Investigation
  3. Ideation
  4. Iteration
  5. Identification
  6. Implementation
  7. Illumination
  8. Installation

Personally I don’t think Quirky’s platform appears to go far enough to deliver inspiration or to empower Investigation, which is all about digging deeper to connect the various pieces of Inspiration that you’ve gathered (ideally in a collaborative way) and extract the insights that you will use to drive the Ideation that occurs in the next phase. As an internet and innovation guy I would be happy to help Quirky and GE strengthen the solution if they’re interested in making this inspiration platform more successful. ;-) (wink)

Will any successful innovations come out of this GE and Quirky partnership?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Image credits: GE, Quirky
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Braden KelleyBraden 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.

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5 Responses to GE Takes a Quirky Approach to Innovation

  1. Pingback: GE Takes a Quirky Path to Innovation | organiza...

  2. JM says:

    ​​Really interesting Braden, thanks!

    ​​Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across that theorizes about crowds and such similar phenomena. ​ ​

    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115

    In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!

  3. Bjorn Frederick - PhD Service Innovation + Contractor Consultant says:

    Hi Braden

    Thanks for sharing this new approach to innovation.
    I liked the approach, gave me the perception of “thinking big” behind it, and as a consequence results will come in the distant future.
    I totally agree with your that patents will need an “expert translator”. In my country, Brazil, it seems a appealing way to get academy professor more active and connected to industry needs, by being the “expert translator”. Most probably helping tech start-ups. It would be nice to see it happening here and around the world.
    Thanks again.
    Best regards

  4. Karl-Michael Schumann says:

    I look at this collaboration as an interesting attempt to enable a fresh start on “technology push” based innovation. Every single invention (or idea, for that matter) can be the source of a portfolio of multiple innovation directions and multiple successful new products/services or businesses. But, that needs much more than inspiration – it needs a very disciplined process of uncovering what the invention specifically enables (new or stronger capabilities and resulting new or better problem solutions), determining the resulting value (for what “jobs” can these be benefically applied) and potential customers (i.e. who would want it for these jobs). What I see at Quirky still seems to leave innovation to chance, but does not yet systematically exploit the full value of GE’s patents.

  5. Pingback: Innovation Excellence | GE Takes a Quirky Appro...

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