Air France’s Open Innovation Approach Takes Off

Published Aug-18-14

Innovative in-flight tableware designed through a targeted open innovation contest.

Air France, France

The Story:

Air France’s Open Innovation Approach Takes Off Despite the many advantages of tapping into the brain power of the crowd, some enterprises experience nothing but frustration. They throw out a challenge and receive a tidal wave of solutions from every Tom, Dick and Sally.

The trouble with having a crowd that is too general or indeed in having a challenge that is too broad in scope is that a lot of low quality ideas are submitted. A terrific solution may be in there somewhere, but finding it is impossible with the allocated time and resources.

Targeted Crowd

So when Air France launched an open innovation contest for a new in-flight meal tray and tableware design it decided to pre-select participants.

The French flag carrier only accepted applications from students and young adults who had graduated from design schools, fine art schools, graphic art schools and industrial design schools within the previous three years in a handful of countries – France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

By limiting the pool of participants to a highly knowledgeable and more manageable group, Air France increased its chances of receiving high quality submissions.

There was an additional benefit in being so picky. Namely from a branding perspective, the airline helped to create an aspirational association between it and the concept of high quality.

Stellar Results

According to the airline, its strategy for this open innovation contest paid off with some extraordinary results.

The top prize was awarded to Sabine Marcelis and Paula Colchero. They designed two sets of tableware, which were selected for their originality, creativity and aesthetics, as well as for being technically feasible, environmentally friendly and economically worth it.

Their idea is called PICNIC and they were inspired by the French love of picnics to come up with a new way of serving in-flight meals. It consists of two stacked towers of containers - one for hot food and one for cold food that allow a passenger to distribute their meal as they wish. Each container acts as a lid for another container which eliminates the need for packaging, thereby making a cost saving as well as being a little friendlier on the planet. There is also no need for a tray which is a big space saver.

According to Sabine and Paula, their concept minimizes waste and reduces weight, fuel consumption and the emission of gases.

For their innovation, the pair received two round-trip tickets on an Airbus and 3,000 euros.

Inspiring Example

The Air France case study acts as a good model for those organizations concerned about how they will manage a large, public facing open innovation trawl for ideas. Utilizing IdeaConnection's innovative teams is another way of controlling excess input to innovation challenges.

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