By: Jennifer Rocha

TechConnect speaks to Greg Omland, Vice President of Innovation, about the importance of innovation to Bob Barker Company.

  Bob Barker Company Greg Omland

What are technology/solution areas that you have a primary interest in?

The Bob Barker Company has a long history of serving the criminal justice industry by providing an extensive range of detention supplies such as personal care items, clothing, mattresses and more. However, the industry continues to evolve, requiring new products and technologies to keep inmates and correctional officers safe and productive. In that light, the Bob Barker Company is in the midst of an evolution as well, which is why we have dedicated a significant portion of our finances, time and resources to developing new technologies and piecing together meaningful innovations for our customers. The Strategic Innovation team – in coordination with members from the rest of the company – is interested in discovering products and services to aid in making prisons and jails safer, more efficient and more cost-effective. From green products to personal security and beyond, Bob Barker Company strives to identify any product or service that will help its customers be more successful.

What level of commercial maturity do you typically look for in technology partnerships?

Due to the nature of the industry it serves, the Bob Barker Company has the benefit of working with technology partners within varying levels of maturity. The Strategic Innovation team adheres to the McKinsey Three Horizons Methodology and compartmentalizes projects based on where they fit within the company. As an incubator for new ideas, products and services, the Strategic Innovation team is responsible for developing ideas to post-commercialization maturity, then designating the ideas to different departments. The flexibility that the Strategic Innovation team employs stems from the fact that the team operates as a startup within a well-established company.

Please describe your company’s Innovation model and how this model helps to find new innovations.

The innovation model utilized by the Bob Barker Company includes a team dedicated to seeking and advancing new ideas from inside and outside of the company through primary and secondary research complemented by a cloud-based software program. The research focuses on the pain points of the customer and results in ideas to help solve those pain points. The team runs all of the ideas through a series of stage-gate reviews with a review team made up of representatives from throughout the company. The reviews include a different series of criteria for each stage along with an assessment for marketplace potential. The review process helps determine whether the idea presents an opportunity for Bob Barker Company to build a new product or to find a partner to help bring the product to market. The model is essential in finding new innovations because it prioritizes ideas for the team without excluding any ideas. It also gives individuals throughout the company a chance to submit and comment on existing or new ideas. Bob Barker Company is able to tap into the expertise and curiosity of all employee stakeholders to ensure the collection of a diverse range of ideas.

Why work with TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector? Who are you looking to meet with?

The Bob Barker Company identified TechConnect and the National Innovation Summit as a technology prospector because of the breadth of innovation topics covered during the conference. The Summit will cover topics typically considered irrelevant to the criminal justice industry, but the Strategic Innovation team is keen on finding adjacent ideas, products and services and adapting them to the criminal justice industry for the benefit of the Bob Barker Company customers. We subscribe to Google’s innovation algorithm of “discovery plus collaboration plus fun equals innovation.” We spend two-thirds of our focus on discovery of customer pain points within our industry and supplement that with discovery of solutions from other industries. As we assessed the best use of our resources to understand a broad swath of technologies that we could apply to our industry, we felt that participating in TechConnect would advance our broader discovery efforts. We appreciate the mindset of William Gibson, who said, “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” We look forward to meeting with people who have technologies that we can “distribute” from another industry to our industry to help transform it.