Collaboratories – ecosystems of practitioners or researchers seeking new answers in joint programs began to flourish a decade ago and are now being adopted in product development. In this particular instance Living Well Collaborative’s purpose is, through discovery and sharing of insights, to create innovative products & services to enhance the quality of life for over 50 year old consumers.
LWC is a unique collaborative model between a multi-disciplinary research university and corporations with full end-user involvement. It was created as part of P&G’s Connect+Develop Open Innovation program, specifically targeting the unmet needs of the world’s aging populations. Since its creation, General Mills, Hill-Rom, Boeing, Citi, Kraft and LG have joined as LWC partners along with the University of Cincinnati’s schools of Design Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), Medicine, Nursing, Business and Engineering.
The over 50 population (baby boomers) represent 78.2 million people in the USA alone with $2.3 trillion in buying power and over 80% of all the money in US saving accounts.
We are all aware of the global aging population. The over 50 population (baby boomers) represent 78.2 million people in the USA alone with $2.3 trillion in buying power and over 80% of all the money in US saving accounts. Laura Bush represents the oldest baby boomer and Michelle Obama the youngest. While it may dismay Gen-Yers, the over 50 crowd’s use of social networking has increased dramatically. In 2010, 20% of adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites daily, a 10% increase from 2009. For those over 65, it’s has increased from 4% to 13%. This is obviously a very large, growing, well ‘funded’ market segment, representing one third of Americans.
While many corporations work with academia for R&D in basic or applied technology and science, this particular relationship, focused on design and commercialization, is rather new and growing. There is a lot to learn from LWC’s almost 4 year old unique model.
It is also a form of rapid innovation, with a project taken from the initial idea to concept in 10 weeks, starting with identifying the opportunity, conducting research, ideating on solutions, refining the solutions through prototypes and testing, debriefing all parties on findings to final concept. In addition to these Quarter-based studios, LWC provides shorter, smaller workshops and website and project process logs for knowledge sharing and collaboration.
A project is taken from the initial idea to concept in 10 weeks, starting with identifying the opportunity, conducting research, ideating on solutions, refining the solutions through prototypes and testing.
Projects are launched with the involvement of end-users. Once identified, they use several ways to interact with lead and end-user groups – shopping together, home interviews, interactive sessions co-designing or responding to several concepts. They also present concepts to a new panel of consumers.
First let’s look at a project that involved students from the UC’s Colleges of Nursing, DAAP, and Medicine in graphic design, product development, business and bio-med, with Cincinnati’s non-profit Alzheimer’s Association, Prototyping services through Haney PRC (Packaging Resource Center), a packaging company in Cincinnati that does prototyping of packaging as a service, faculty support from throughout the university and Hill-Rom a large, hospital bed & accessories manufacturer)
The project objective was to allow women, aged 70+, with Alzheimer’s to live at home as long as they possibly could. The solution was medmail, a service to help these patients and their caregivers manage medication at home:
This collaborative project involved students from Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Product Development, Business and Bio-Medical engineering with support from nurses and wound care personnel.
Another Hill-Rom project focused on redesigning the disdained hospital gown and mattress cover. While we all hate the breezy design of the gowns, the focus was on reducing the risk of pressure ulcers. This collaborative project involved students from Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Product Development, Business and Bio-Medical engineering with support from nurses and wound care personnel. Bio-medical engineers identified likely anatomical sites for pressure ulcers. Design students and nurses identified ways to increase patient comfort and mobility with dignity and ‘home-i-ness’.
The gown is waiting to be field/trial tested and most likely will be tested.
Amazingly, especially with the increase in drug-resistant bacteria and microbes in the hospital setting, the infamous hospital tray has not been redesigned. It is a virtual breeding ground for infection, dirt and generally gross stuff. UC’s College of Nursing’s students started a project to redesign the hospital tray:
General Mills has worked with the LWC team on product development for Yoplait™, new markets for Green Giant™, reinvention of shelf-stable meals and new soup opportunities for Progresso™. Boeing is identifying the needs of the future traveler and understanding the entire journey door to door. Citi has been evaluating new financial service solutions and LG is looking to innovate their appliance market.
As the initial Open Innovation partner, P&G and LWC have done quite a few projects over the years:
On project in particular was the Mikan Ball. Students looked at how water influences the whole family’s view of beauty and health, especially as parents and grandparents. The Japanese believe that bathing with aromatic organics helped healing, such as the orange-like citrus Mikan. Based on this, the LWC and P&G team created a Mikan-like ball, complete with the fruit-like texture, that purifies the water and provides aromatherapy for relaxation. Voila! A new product that gives a spa-like feeling to the home bath plus purified bathing water plus healthy skin!
This type of collaboration provides the next generation of economic developers, students, with real world practical experience in creating solutions across generations, industries, regions, markets and cultures.
Due the success of LWC and its partners in creating real world practical, usable solutions, P&G helped LWC create a design center at Singapore Polytechnic (LWC-S) last September. More than 50% of the aging population lives in Asia, growing to almost 1 billion people in the next ten years through the Asia Pacific region who will spend approximately $1.5 trillion by 2015. LWC-S is adapting its model to serve the different cultural needs of this region.
LWC is a very exciting type of open innovation and collaboration across multiple players – academia, large industrial (e.g, Boeing), consumer product companies (e.g., P&G), and non-profits (e.g., Cincinnati’s Alzheimer’s Association), and users.
What is most exciting is that this type of collaboration provides the next generation of economic developers, students, with real world practical experience in creating solutions across generations, industries, regions, markets and cultures.
More of this type of collaboration is taking place. At BW’s Center for Innovation & Growth, student fellows (students from across the college’s majors nominated by faculty) are involved with regional companies in real world business projects. These include new market research (primary and secondary), project planning and augmentation/supplemental support for innovation. Clients have included Northeast Ohio companies such as Cliffs, OEConnection, PNC, RPM, GOJO, Parker and Ideastream/WCPN (public radio). As a result of these projects, these companies have entered new markets, explored new segments and hired students either as interns as well as upon graduation.
The value of these types of non-traditional open innovation collaborations is obvious and as more institutions recognize that value, these collaborations will grow, providing new products and services, new business models and new ways to develop, attract and retain top talent.
By Deborah Mills-Scofield
Deb Mills-Scofield helps companies create actionable, measurable, adaptable, and if implemented, profitable innovation and strategic plans. After graduating from Brown University, helping start the Cognitive Science concentration, she went to AT&T Bell Labs and received a patent for what became one of their top revenue-generating services. Deb was instrumental in creating AT&T’s entrance into the Internet and E-commerce marketplace, AT&T WorldNet® Services.
Deb’s love of innovation – from products/services to management – includes mentoring entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio, Brown’s Entrepreneurship Program, and seniors in Brown’s Women’s Launch Pad Program. Because of her passion for making a difference, Deb asks her clients to match 10% of her fee to improve lives and to mentor entrepreneurs she knows through the early-stage VC firm in which she is a partner, Glengary LLC. In her spare time, Deb watches the tides in Maine, microvolunteers at Sparked.com and with her husband, drives their kids to soccer practices and games.