An Open Innovation Disaster
Campbell Soup Company
by Stefan Lindegaard
“Innovation is the lifeblood of the consumer packaged goods industry.” This is the first sentence you meet at Campbell’s Ideas for Innovation website.
This is very true and we see lots of interesting innovation initiatives in this industry. Just think of P&G, Clorox, General Mills, Nestle and Unilever. Campbell Soup is not a good example. On the contrary, they seem to be a textbook example on what not to do.
Let me start out by going back to August 2009. Campbell Soup had just announced their new Ideas for Innovation website. This is how I reviewed their efforts: How Not to Implement Open Innovation.
Today, I read an article in which Asad Hamid, VP Global Packaging at Campbell Soup talks about open innovation at Campbell. I got curious on the progress that Campbell had made over the years.
At first, I was amused. Then I got a bit angry. It seems as if Campbell has done nothing at all to improve. The site looks the same and many of the issues I pointed out in my original article still exist. One example is that it still takes 3-6 months to get a reply – if you get any at all.
I went on to check their corporate site to learn more about their focus on (open) innovation. Nothing showed up.
Then I checked Google. Most people will google a potential partner and their innovation efforts when they are about to embark on an open innovation journey together. It would thus be great to read how the potential partner approaches innovation and how others praise their efforts. You just don’t find much of interest beside the recent interview with Hamid when it comes to Campbell and innovation.
On the contrary, my original blog post in which I hit on Campbell Soup pretty hard is one of the first articles to show up when you search for “Campbell soup” and innovation.
The combination of all this tells me that Campbell is a company to avoid for potential innovation partners and for corporate innovators as well. Campbell simply does not give the impression of being a good place to work if you are a corporate innovator and I imagine they have a hard time recruiting and retaining strong corporate innovation talent let alone attract – and work with – external partners.
However, Campbell is a great case on open innovation. You just need to mirror them on what companies such as P&G, General Mills and Clorox do in the fast moving consumer goods industry. They are open for business, which shows not only in their initiatives, but also in their willingness to share insights and experiences. Mirror this on Campbell and you have a great example on what not to do. This provides people interested in learning more about open innovation a good learning experience as you get to see both sides of the game.
This is definitely not a good position for Campbell, but unfortunately, I think they deserve it.
Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation