Just keep trying
The open innovation partners we work with at General Mills represent a broad spectrum – from large corporations to small businesses to individual inventors.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark King, an inventor and machinist from Bellingham, Wash., who worked with our Snacks division last year to develop a new quality-control machine that measures the texture of chewy granola bars.
A self-proclaimed inventor and problem-solver since childhood, King obtained his first patent at age 18. He began pitching ideas to large corporations as a teenager, with little success.
“People said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll get there,’” King says, though he admits he grew frustrated when he was unable to break through time and again.
In 2011, he began to search specifically for “inventor-friendly” companies in hopes of finding the right opportunity to at last bring one of his new ideas and solutions to fruition. He quickly came across our General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) portal, and he was excited to search through our database of needs and technical briefs.
Over the next several months, he developed ideas and submitted proposals in response to four or five different G-WIN briefs. Though none were asked to move forward, King did not give up.
Instead, King called our G-WIN team to ask, “What do I have to do to break through?” Once again, he heard, “Just keep trying.”
He says he was encouraged by the fact that he wasn’t told “no,” and he was more determined than ever to keep submitting his ideas to General Mills.
King did just that, and his next proposal – a novel solution for measuring the texture of chewy granola bars – opened the door to a relationship with General Mills.
Of getting that first phone call, King says, “It was a really, really good feeling.”
He began consulting with our Snacks division, learning more about their technical needs and then fleshing out his proposed solution in more detail. He says the trust the General Mills team invested in him encouraged him to think quickly and bring to life his ideas more effectively than ever before.
Over the next five months, he designed a prototype and then built his new machine, which measures the texture, inside and out, over the entire length of a chewy granola bar to ensure quality control. General Mills even asked King to come to Minneapolis to help install the machine and demonstrate how to use it.
“As a young inventor and someone who’s been under the radar for most of my life, [the experience working with General Mills] helped me believe in what I’m doing,” he says.
We’re proud to partner with inventors and entrepreneurs like Mark, and we look forward to following his future endeavors, such as his latest project Trayvax, an RFID-resistant wallet designed to last a lifetime.
Since launching our open innovation platform, the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN), six years ago, General Mills has made new connections and built lasting relationships with thousands of companies and individuals across the globe. Our connected approach to innovation is a core growth strategy for General Mills; in fact, some of our most successful new product launches in recent years were developed with the help of external partners, such as Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies, Yoplait Greek 100, and Nature Valley Protein Bars.
To learn more about G-WIN or submit a technical solution for consideration, visit GeneralMills.com/WIN.
Editor’s note: King presented at TedXBellingham in November 2013 on “Three Reasons to Take on a Big Project,” and you can watch that here.