Free-Format Proposal

We seek proposals from vendors that allow them to stretch their imagination around our needs so they can find the best way to contribute their special capabilities. We provide only a bare-bones outline of what it is we seek from the vendor proposal (i.e., take our prototype+ package and turn it into a blockbuster+ product), and allow outside vendors to fill in the outline with their own special approaches. We impose no arbitrary restrictions on the means toward effectiveness. We impose no arbitrary time-lines. This is a Time & Materials proposal, rewarded based on the following priorities:

  1. Demonstrated creativity in addressing our needs
  2. Staff expertise (and time commitment) for the proposed work
  3. Level of commitment to a pay-for-performance+ reimbursement scheme

To avoid a taint of looking for free consulting work, and to retain rights to the contents of the proposal should negotiations with a vendor be unsuccessful, we pay vendors to develop their own proposals. They are given fair compensation to develop a proposal that is robust, customized, creative and actionable. In all likelihood, given the priorities for rewarding the contract, we will not need any creative insights from losing proposals. But just in case.

We do this for several reasons: to encourage creativity right from the beginning, to signal to vendors that this is a different approach, and to allow vendors to gain a sense of ownership in the work-at-hand. They propose a means toward their deliverables, and we allow them the freedom, within a regime of Alternate Competing Hypotheses+, to pursue their signature approach.

Vendors invited to bid (i.e., those we choose to pay to develop proposals) are given access to a much greater level of detail about the work accomplishments to-date. For commercialization+ work, they have access to all the documentation from the decision to graduate the prototype into commercialization, and to all the due diligence and other materials generated in the decision by the firm to purchase the prototype. They have access to all the detailed laboratory and field books used during the build of the prototype. If there’s any worry, it will be that vendors may have too much information to digest in developing their proposal. We provide a personal guide to the vendors to help them wade through the mountain of documentation.

We seek creativity, but understand that vendors at first will require more guidance on what we mean by this. We’re trying to avoid mechanical approaches to the work; to avoid approaches overly beholden to the three c’s+. We want new and innovative approaches to making our innovative prototype a blockbuster success. And this means we need vendors to buy into World Class R&D concepts of commercialization, for example, use of Alternate Competing Hypotheses. In the pharmaceutical industry we would listen intently to vendors who would propose using mini-clini’s for regulatory submissions. This will be an evolving capability for the vendors, and for the firm.

The free-format style also extends to vendor compensation. We seek vendors who are much willing to take on the work under a pay-for-performance regime. Give us discounted rates for the up-front work, in exchange for very significant rewards in case of success. Different payment schedules (i.e., tolerance for risk) from different vendors are equalized during evaluation of vendor responses, using formulas provided during the proposal process. Over time, as we get more successful at commercialization, we would expect vendors to be more willing to defer compensation until the end.

A free-format proposals signals+ to vendors that we are not seeking cookie-cutter approaches. Instead we seek vendor-partners who are willing and able to tack-and-turn with us as the work progresses. We fully expect to find unexpected obstacles and opportunities. We fully expect vendors to mention these to us as they happen. This is a new approach to R&D, and we seek ways to engage vendor-partners who are not as far along in their World Class R&D thinking. The vendor proposal is our written agreement from them that they intend to start moving in that direction. However, we expect that much of the agreement will be verbal -- with reference back to some handwritten notes if needed. We do not tie our vendor's hands to their 'best guess' at the time of writing the proposal (likewise they will not use this as an excuse for non-performance).