Tuesday, 24 May 2011

I’ve started – so I’ll finish!

Innovation is hard because it involves self destruction

I heard this story from my colleague Maddi Riddell. It’s about an innovation idea that ‘got away’.   In 2004 we ran a project with Heinz in the UK to look for new opportunities in ‘convenience food’. We put our ideas into quantitative testing, including one that was slightly off brief – Beans on Tap – a wide mouth bottle of beans designed to be kept in the fridge and capitalise on the ‘fridge hanging’ snack habit which canned beans hidden in the kitchen cupboard miss out on. I’m afraid our other ‘on brief’ convenience food ideas didn’t pull up any trees but Beans on Tap’s quant scores were ‘through the roof’.  However, the brand team had just committed to the trade on their launch for that year and ‘Beans on Tap’ was put to one side.  Ultimately the launch didn’t work out and now seven years later we’re so excited the new ‘Fridge Pack’ has hit the shelves. We think it looks terrific and hope it’s doing well for them.  Clearly we think it’s a great idea!

This story reflects the a painful truth about innovation; to do new things we almost always have to stop doing the comfortable things we’re doing now – despite the fact that we have invested in specialist people, production facilities and know how.  Innovation is easy for a start up – they have nothing to destroy but for an incumbent with established brands and chains of supply innovation needs generous and expansive thinking.  Ultimately strong and persuasive leadership is needed to jolt force an organisation out of its river of thinking.  Maybe this should be the innovators mantra:  If its comfortable it’s probably wrong.

                              2004                                                    2011