Hello, I-Prize. Part of our innovation incubator known as Innovation for Good®, the I-Prize competition invites all 38,000+ Kohler associates around the world to propose revolutionary products and solutions that reduce environmental impact, improve a process or provide value to consumers. In particular, it focuses on business opportunities aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on safe water and sanitation, reliable power and responsible production and consumption.
The goal? To develop new product or process ideas aligned with a social purpose to the point where one of our business units can adopt them.
Hundreds of associates around the globe embrace their intrapreneurial spirit, presenting in regional “Shark Tank”-style competitions. Pitches are evaluated by a panel of executive judges who select the finalists—each aiming for incubation funding to further develop their business ideas.
Pitches have included everything from solutions that improve water quality and access to hygiene stations for underserved communities to ones that enable reuse of our industrial waste streams to create products of commercial value. Since the I-Prize was established in 2018, fourteen teams have received funds to help them continue to test, prototype and validate their innovations.
And the competitors are not always who you’d think. Engineers and designers certainly have made their mark, but so have associates from human resources, technical services, marketing and sales—proving that innovation comes from all corners of the company.
Ideally, the ideas emerging from the I-Prize are transitioned to business development and commercialization after their incubation phase. But sometimes something just as important happens—they fail. We find out what didn’t work, and why. We learn a lot through the process. It changes our thinking, presents new ideas and challenges us to improve. And more often than not, that “failure” provides a key insight into our business.
Whether we’re solving a consumer problem or driving efficiencies in a business process, our associates are at the center of our innovation. And we’re always looking for new ideas.
Join us. Drive change. Make waves. Fail big. Achieve even bigger.
Kohler engineer James Bourne took the “I-Prize” for designing a new handwashing solution for the developing world.