Mike Antinone
Mike Antinone. Source: General Mills.

The General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) shared key insights of its X3 Process, a new approach the company developed to provide a step-by-step road map for its open innovation projects. During a presentation at CoDev 2012, an open innovation conference in La Jolla, CA, the G-WIN team said the new process has been instrumental in General Mills’ recent innovation projects, and hopes other businesses, organizations and individuals will find the X3 Process valuable to their projects as well.

“Since formally launching the G-WIN open innovation program at General Mills five years ago, we learned that our scientists were excited about the open innovation tools available to them; however, they didn’t necessarily know how and when to use them most effectively,” says Mike Antinone, associate director of G-WIN. “It became evident there was a need for a facilitator or road map for the entire open innovation process, something that would let our scientists be scientists, and let the process be the general management solution to guide them.”

Beginning in March of last year, the G-WIN team worked with a group of General Mills’ strategists and innovators to develop the approach, bringing together a number of best practices to balance the art and science of open innovation.

The X3 Process encompasses three core principles of innovation—eXamine, eXpand and eXplore—and facilitates the process of innovation by helping make connections between unmet technical needs and actionable solutions. Unlike some other innovation processes, the X3 Process provides a non-linear path to success, allowing innovators to use only the steps necessary to effectively identify appropriate solutions.

The X3 Process includes the following steps:

· Ask the right question(s)—gather knowledge internally to gain alignment on your “true” knowledge gaps and technical needs

· Get smart—build and develop new knowledge, including key insights and innovation opportunities

· Ask better questions—immerse your team in new knowledge to generate insights and new hypotheses

· Communicate needs—write, refine and finalize well-crafted briefs that clearly explain your needs

· Find smart people—use available tools and networking opportunities to identify potential solution providers

· Make connections—initiate relationships and kick-off projects.

Because the steps are not a linear course, the X3 Process encourages innovators to use only those steps needed to find the appropriate solutions, and to only go as deeply as needed to identify the appropriate solutions.

General Mills first implemented the X3 Process internally to guide a sugar-reduction project that kicked off in June 2011, and the company intends to utilize the process for similar large platform projects in the future.

To learn more about the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network, visit www.generalmills.com/win.