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Exploitation of innovation within Unilever


Exploitationof innovation within Unilever

Innovationin any organization typically begins with the introduction of a newtechnical concept or a bright idea that is just a first step in thelong path towards successful innovation. New innovations such associal networking and social media technologies have with timeoffered businesses a potent way of upgrading the communications,processes which in turns increases their performance (Freeman&ampVelamuri 2006, pp. 50). According to famous journals in thebusiness and technology world, the optimisms high with regard to thepositive impacts that come with these kinds of technologies will haveon the businesses that implement them. Unfortunately, theseprospective advantages are not known fully to individuals, partiallydue to the fact that little of empirical research on their use inbusinesses has been conducted (Aggarwal 2011, pp. 41). However, thelikely risks and challenges associated with the use of social mediaplatforms by businesses must also be put into consideration. Withregard to the above, this article will provide an analysis of theexploitation of innovation within Unilever through a commerciallydeveloped social network service.

Unileveris a multinational consumer goods company that has products thatrange from foods, beverages, cleaning agents, and personal careproducts. Unilever is one of the world’s leading supplier of fastmoving consumer goods considering that the company boasts of over 400brands selling in over 190 countries globally (Antoncic &ampHisrich2001, pp 56). With view of this, such an organization needs to remaininnovative in order to maintain its competitive advantage. Using thesocial dynamics model would greatly help this organization inreaching to far of customers and give it an un-appareled form ofadvertisement.

It’sworth noting that Unilever has not been left in the leveraging ofsocial media through a commercially developed social network serviceto its customers. The company utilizes the social network platformsof face book, YouTube, twitter and LinkedIn. By using face book, forinstance, the company run advertisements, share recipes and getsfeedback on their products and other relevant information from theircustomers (Antoncic &ampHisrich 2001, pp 68). Using their twitteraccount, the company is also able to share news about programs indifferent countries as well as engage on topics about business,marketing and sustainability.


Knowledgein the business world entails all the capital owned by both theowners and staff of a given company. These are considered as theindividuals with the technical know-how, competency, expertise, andmarket experience. With knowledge management, businesses are in aposition to convert the individual capital present into intellectualcapital by generating value for money. Knowledge management unlikecontent management apart not only stores documents but it’s alsoincreases skills and expertise which is enhanced by to sharing(Blum-Kusterer &amp Hussain 2001, pp. 34). With knowledge managementindividuals are able to collaborate and link them to others withexpertise in the business. The ability of individuals to easily finda subject matter expert, and get answers to questions or evenassistance when solving problems is also a priority in knowledgemanagement. With knowledge management businesses are able to keep offconstantly re-inventing the wheel, hence the decreasing supply oftalent, and the staff turnover (Aggarwal 2011, pp. 45)

Harnessingand leveraging on knowledge management as such is no longer justessential, but a necessary game changer in business (Baldwin,Hienerth &ampHippel 2006, pp. 37). Additionally, specific objectivesand strategy for clients should include the assessment of theknowledge management maturity, the assistance in the selecting theknowledge and application of knowledge management resolutions, theassessment of the knowledge management plan, and the development ofa change in culture (Freeman &ampVelamuri 2006, pp. 58).


Organizationallearning has in most cases been defined as the shared understandingwithin the organization which translates into products, systemsprocedures, structures and strategies. As such, a businesses’collection of knowledge will be increased if individuals sharetactics and explicit knowledge and information which is facilitatedby socialization, combination and externalization process (Antoncic&ampHisrich 2001, pp 75). Use of technology in businesses canimprove organizational learning when used as a tool to transformtactic knowledge into explicit knowledge through a process known asexternalization. This also goes further to converting explicitknowledge into more sets of explicit knowledge through a processcalled combination. Technology is a key instrument in the creationstorage communication, analysis, diffusion and systematization ofinformation and knowledge (Great Britain 2007, pp. 57).

Oneof the examples pertaining to co-creation with supply based revolvesaround key strategic innovation relationships forged with enzymemanufacturers. It is worth noting that Unilever does not undertakeresearch and discovery of enzymes, rather it relies on fundamentalrelationships with varied biotech companies so as to come up with aninnovation pipeline pertaining to enzyme technologies (Beske, Koplin,&ampSeuring 2006, pp 54). This collaboration in enzyme researchunderlines immense co-creation especially considering its fundamentalimportance to the companies competitiveness in laundry business asenvisaged in the core categories of the entity. On the same note, itis worth noting that the expertise is offered by co-creation partnerswho are also searching for areas of advancement in the same field.Moreover, collaboration between SME supplier and Unilever have thecapacity to enhance the speed with which these innovations are madefor all partners (Drayton 2002, pp. 45).

Technologyin businesses has a positive effect on organizational learning andthat link is usually supported when appropriate culture exists. Asenterprises interact with their environment, they are able to absorbinformation, turn into knowledge and take actions based on acombination of their experiences, internal rules and values (Amit,Brander &ampZott 2000, pp. 56). Businesses that are committed totechnology use foster a job environment and a culture that supportscontinuous learning.

Organizationallearning has in most cases been defined as the common perceptive inorganizations, which translates into systems procedures, productsstrategies and structures. As such, a businesses’ collection ofknowledge will only be improved if businesses share tactics andexplicit knowledge and information which is facilitated bysocialization, combination and externalization process (Thomson 2009,pp. 45). Use of technology in businesses can improve organizationallearningwhen used as a means to change tactical knowledge intoprecise information, through a process known as externalization. Thisalso goes further to converting precise knowledge into advanced setsof simplified knowledge through a process called combination. Tinall these leveraging in technology is key in the creation and storageof information, systematization, diffusion and analysis ofinformation(King 2009, pp. 36).

Inessence, one of the most influential areas of change that acts uponthe development of learning organizations is technology. Consideringthe rate at which technology advances and changes, it follows thatcontinuous learning is essential for sustainable organizationalgrowth (Jolly 2003, pp. 56).

SocialMedia Development and Issues

Technologyand regulation processes are in essence the two key movers forsustainable innovations in any organization. Resent research onresearch has shown that the lure of budding market niches was one ofthe motivators for companies to endeavor into being more innovative(Dorado 2005). Innovation in technology empowers businesses and helpsand helps them grow in various ways. In Europe, for instance, thesignificance of the internet on the region’s growth in economycreation of jobs is set to swell over the next few years(Jennex2007). Additionally, the web is projected to have an immensesignificance both career creation and a more competent use ofcapital.

Werecognize social media platforms as applications that enable users todevelop profiles as well as share a relationship in order to view andnavigate through these links. Similarly, social media areapplications that boost exchange of information and develop socialinteractions amongst its consumers and organization wherebybusinesses are also able to build on the development and exchange ofuser generated information (Gewald&amp Leliveld 2012, pp. 45).

Apartfrom being friendly platforms, these kinds of technologies are nowbeing portrayedas platforms, since they enable their users to come upand implement their own applications. Furthermore, both the socialmedia the web have been fundamental resources for the execution andsuccess of many social entrepreneurship concepts (Dees, Emerson&ampEconomy, 2001, pp. 51). With these forms of information sharing,ideas can be shared amongst broader and divergent audience encouragethe chances of these plans to be financed by interested investors inaddition to the expansion of the stakeholders’ network around theseideas (Boxenbaum 2004, pp. 96).

Theespousal and use of social networking platforms by businesses hasbeen on the rise since the year 2008. Likewise, the use of microblogging tools by businesses such as twitter has also been very muchon the rise (Friedrichsen 2012, pp. 75).The emergent learningorganization, influenced by both hypothetical standards and practicalskills, is a system that encourages continued learning and growth ofits individual affiliates and then leverages that communal learningfor the largely enhanced performance of that business(Chesbrough2006, pp. 47).

Itis important to note that the value of an enterprise use of socialnetworking is determined not by the platforms themselves, but by howthey are harnessed to create value for the organization. As such, oneoutstanding issue in this area involves identifying the circumstancesunder which business are able to adopt social networking and socialmedia platforms to improve both external and internal communicationprocesses and organizational performance (Brinckerhoff 2000, pp. 93).

UnileverCase Analysis

Organizational Background

Unileveris a large and successful multinational company that has a huge focuson sustainable growth, as well as having a successful history forinnovation. (Von stamm2008, pp. 82). With view of these, such anorganization needs to remain innovative in order to maintain itscompetitive advantage. Using the social dynamics model would greatlyhelp this organization in reaching to far off customers A key strandfor Unilever’s global strategy is bigger, better and fasterinnovations (Wolf, 2011, pp. 37). Emerging developments in science aswell as technology and changing of consumer demands in new marketsare just some of the drivers for open innovation at Unilever.

Unileverowns some 2000 different brands worldwide. Over the years, Unileverhas obtained many local and national companies, with each companyhaving with its own national brands. In 1999, Unilever came up with anew strategy aimed at accelerating growth. A major element of thisstrategy involved focusing more on the company’s chief brands. Thisinvolved the reduction of its number of brands from about 1600 thatare still in use to 400 (Brown, de Jong &amp Lessidrenska 2007, pp.56).

Unilever’spolicy involves widening its renowned brand names into differentproduct grouping. For instance, Lipton started as a brand name in teabut has since Unilever Company profile into expanded into beverages.Dove on the hand began as a brand name for special soaps, but hassince expanded into shampoos, deodorants, shower gels and otherproducts (Thomson 2009).


Unilever`smove to using of social media platforms highlights a trend amongadvertisers to create, request only online communities to gain bettercomprehension of consumer opinions. Unilever believes that brandsshould look to online societies for novelty as well as for gainingcustomer insight (Wolf 2011, pp. 92). Various classes at Unileverthat have fervent customer groups, including savoury foods and haircare, were already using communities as a way to source creativity(Bruyat&ampJulien2000, pp.43). With regard to this, Unilever employsstrategy which includes waiting for something to go erroneous andthen use the society to fix it.

Unileverhas, for instance, used co-creation agency Face`s online youthsociety Head Box to source a small team from around the world whocreated the design for the two-part Twist fragrance for example. Thishas seen various agencies in the United Kingdom partner to initiatethe Co-Creation center, a joint for implementing the take-up ofcommunity into all stages of marketing planning. This includesinclude Face advertisement agency and media agencies (Morais Da Costa2011, pp. 53).


Unilever,like a large number of long-established technology based companies,has incorporated an extremely vertically integrated structure, aswell as a culture that is concentrated on in-house development ofproducts. This, however, began changing in the 21stcentury, with new structures and a shift towards an immensely openculture pertaining to technology development emerging(Burritt&ampSaka2006, pp. 59). Research and development (or R&ampD)occupies a fundamental component of the Unilever Company especiallyconsidering that it is responsible for close to 2% of its entireturnover. This is equivalent to about a billion euros per year onresearch and development. The company’s current function pertainingto research and development is christened discover, design anddeploy.

Design,in this case, does not primarily revolve around science rather it ismore about applications, as well as new business models (Christensen,Craig&amp Hart2001, pp. 51). Deploy, on the other hand, takes thenew business models from the center of Unilever out to the onehundred and eighty operating countries and guarantees the completefunctionality of the products to the local consumers. This,undoubtedly, underlines the incorporation of both legal and safetyconcerns, not to mention the sensorial point of view (Crane &ampMatten 2003, pp. 74).

Interestingly,use of technology is not the only driver of open innovation inUnilever. The company has undertaken immense collaboration with localuniversities and suppliers and universities, a factor that hasfostered open innovation. These collaborations are part of thecomplete exploitation of the quality of novelty that may be generatedwith supplier partners including huge chemical companies, as well asbig packaging companies. Big businesses make up some of the mostfundamental partners in whom the company may come across innovativeideas, as well as co-create innovation (Benton, Richter,Takai&ampTeramoto2004, pp. 49).

Extentof Unilever innovation

Accordingto sources close to Unilever, the company’s return on investmentfrom in store promotions has been on the rise through the use ofFacebook and Twitter,. The brand-owner has over the years investedhighly in social media via the platforms, with brands such asMarmite, Sure and Lynx all promoted through Twitter in recent months(Back, Enkel, &amp Von Krogh 2007, pp. 56).

Througha commercially developed Social network service to its customers,Unilever is able to exploit the social network platforms of facebook, YouTube, twitter and LinkedIn. Using their twitter account, thecompany is also able to share news about programs in differentcountries as well as engage on topics about business, marketing andsustainability. Additionally, by using face book, for instance, thecompany run advertisements, share recipes and gets feedback on theirproducts and other relevant information from their customers (Zisa2011,pp. 29).


Themultidimensional approaches to creativity and innovation thatUnilever has adopted involving inside-out and outside-in co-creation,alongside the dynamic role pertaining to intellectual property haveenhanced the company’s capacity to come up with cutting-edge ideas,as well as manage risk while establishing and maintaining structuredrelationships in an effort to offer beneficial result for allstakeholders. Physical proximity enhances the depth of relationships,which makes it easier to manage difficult issues (Jolly 2003, pp 52).The establishment of creative, innovative and deep relationshipsimplies that fundamental issues such as sharing laboratories and IP,as well as the development of creative and deep relationships areperceived as more easily managed subject to the physical proximity ofpartners (Perrini 2006, pp. 45). This analysis of the exploitation ofinnovation within Unilever through a commercially developed socialnetwork service also reveals the capacity of the business entity tobuild ties with other anchors of innovation or creativity. This hasbecome possible as a result of inward investment. The companyincorporates a strong position in the United Kingdom economy, as wellas in North West of England as an innovation anchor (Malhotra2000,pp, 44).

Onthe same note, the business entity comes with a considerable, as wellas potentially beneficial impact on the abilities of everystakeholder within its network such as industry and academic players,propelling their innovations to the global stage. The company,through this approach to innovation, operates as a conduit or medium.An increase in social presence of the company often increases thesocial influence of the business. Of particular note is the fact thatsocial presence is a function of the intimacy and immediacy of themedium. The effectiveness of a particular medium, on the other hand,is determined by the amount and quality of information transfer(Etzion&amp Ferraro 2006, pp. 57).


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