Inspiration on how to foster innovation can come from an unlimited number of places and in a lot of different forms. And at the recent Prepared Foods New Products Conference, a fantastic group of food and beverage product development gurus shared their insights on uncovering the next big thing.
How these clever companies go about innovating around trends varies wildly. But what all the presenters implied or, in the case of Chris Cornyn of DINE, stated emphatically is that to truly innovate, you’ve got to “Get the Hell Out!”
Get the Hell Out of your office or cube or lab!
Get the Hell Out of your “we’ve always done it this way” box!
Get the Hell Out of your own way in developing tired line extensions that clog your pipeline!
Get the Hell Out of your comfort zone!
It’s similar to what Pragmatic Marketing has coined with NIHITO: Nothing Important Happens In The Office. Don’t misunderstand – you must carefully evaluate whether you have “permission to play” in certain categories or markets. But it’s just a fact that most discoveries need fresh air to breathe and collaboration to truly become great . . . innovative.
In this session, Hank Izzo from Mars, Inc highlighted three practices core and central to the famous M&M maker’s ability to innovate:
- Create the conditions. Mars renovated their office to establish a creative and collaborative environment worth of the iconic brands they sell, with bright red meeting booths for team brainstorming. Are your offices conducive to this kind of culture?
- Leverage your people. What do you want your best people to be thinking about? Ruminating on? Give them a challenge! Sustainability? New business models? Your team members are your greatest assets – engage them!
- Innovate beyond products. Mars is borrowing a page from Larry Keeley and his book, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs. Have you considered innovating outside of R&D? How about in Finance? Or with the Delivery Channel? Opportunity is everywhere!
As stated above, Chris Cornyn took a different approach entirely and actually told one of his clients to Get the Hell Out! He sent them on a scavenger hunt to capture with video and shared idea posts the smells, sights, sounds, ingredients, textures, and traditions of their abuela’s kitchen and favorite Mexican food haunts. The visual results were far more powerful than sitting around at the kitchen table talking about a new, innovative concept.
Finally, a special shout out to my new friends at Mintel for the grand tasting showcase/focus group. (No diet was safe at THIS conference!) What better way to get a read on the next innovation than to hear it directly from consumers via a new product or prototype. And for the record, cappuccino flavored potato chips are not for me, but the Cadbury Dairy Milk Ritz (think creamy milk chocolate with a Ritz cracker in the middle) was the most amazing combination of mind-blowing salty and sweet. May I have some more please?
Did you attend the Prepared Foods New Products Conference? Share your takeaways by leaving a comment below.