Throughout 2016, YourEncore Consumer Goods Experts have shared their experiences and perspectives on a host of topics, including knowledge management, innovation, visual demonstration, FSMA implementation, supply chain optimization, problem solving, consumer insights, productivity improvement, and margin management. We recently looked back at these blog posts and discovered that they share five common themes, regardless of the specific topic or discipline being addressed. As you wind down 2016 and head into 2017, we urge you to consider how these concepts can be applied to your business situation. We expect them to be increasingly relevant in the year ahead.
1. Success starts with consumer understanding.
Whether you are a technologist, scientist, or marketer, business and innovation success requires a deep understanding of what the consumer wants and what they are missing. Defining the consumer desired experience requires synthesizing consumer values, aspirations, and the product category’s standards of excellence. This drives both performance targets for R&D and consumer-meaningful communications for marketing. Translating the blend of shopper/end-user insights, business model requirements, and brand equity into product technologies and package design is key to trial, adoption, and loyalty.
In addition, consumer, category, and competitor insight is the foundation for product claim development and the inspiration for effective visual demonstrations of those claims and benefits.
Last, but certainly not least, innovation trailblazers are passionate about the foundational role and power of consumer and customer insights, trends, and intuitive, tacit knowledge holders to identify new opportunities. They are using new tools and crowd-sourcing models to “co-create” with early adopters, tapping into their target consumers’ delight factor almost in real time.
2. Begin with the end in mind; know where you’re going before you take the first step.
Before starting any key initiative, whether it's solving a specific problem, mapping a process, optimizing a supply chain, implementing new regulations, or creating new products, it's essential to know exactly what problem you are trying to solve. That seems obvious, but often it is not as easy as you might expect.
Start by separating content from process…first define what needs to be done, not how it should be done. Define the challenge at the highest level; this opens possibilities and leads to simpler solutions. Use technical and scientific language to ensure clarity and facilitate alignment. And focus on one problem at a time.
Once the problem is clearly identified, understanding the relevant process(es) is the essential first step in finding innovative solutions. Process mapping helps identify gaps and pain points and provides the springboard for solution brainstorming. Further, every step in a process map has a quantifiable, measurable outcome; identify the appropriate metric, set the target, identify gaps, and determine the relative importance of each gap. This allows you prioritize and focus the organization and resources.
Similarly, innovation work should only start once a business vision, innovation strategy, and innovation brief are in place. The Innovation Brief defines and guides the innovation effort, idea creation, and required resources. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the tighter the innovation brief, the greater the potential for an explosion of ideas and creativity. The innovation brief defines the task at hand and who should be selected for each specific innovation team.
3. Multi-functional teams that include both internal and external players deliver the best results.
A sharply defined problem or innovation brief reveals the mix of talent required to achieve the business objective. The most effective teams are a blend of internal and external experts, infusing firsthand knowledge with fresh perspectives. Internal experts bring product/category-specific expertise, institutional knowledge, and data access, along with passion and pride. External experts bring fresh perspectives, a broader set of experiences to draw from, a gut feel about what’s possible/doable, and push boundaries. Invite participants who are technically competent, intellectually curious, and resourceful, with a bit of artistic flair. Engage diverse experience across different categories and businesses, and select team members who possess the rare ability to connect ideas and processes from one industry/category to another. Create your own “LinkedIn effect” by including individuals who are well-connected and can tap into their personal external network for additional capabilities and expertise as needed. This can drastically reduce time to develop, source, prototype and design superior products and solutions. Find experts who can build effortlessly on others’ ideas, collaborate seamlessly, dig deeper, are open-minded, and who appreciate and identify consumer insights and then bring applications to meet unfilled needs.
These team engagements result in more than just the desired business outcome. They create visibility and access, a broader understanding of the business, more end-to-end solutions, new ideas, greater collaboration, and new relationships that endure beyond the end of the assignment.
4. Talk is cheap (and boring!). Appeal to the senses.
From consumer insight mining via scavenger hunts and design boards to exploring concepts, to communicating and selling your ideas internally and externally, leverage the power of visual and experiential tools and resources. Use video to inspire R&D and creative work, test ideas and concepts, sell products, and communicate complex technology. Create signature visuals to establish and communicate brand equity. Live demos, immersion, and experiential environments can showcase your expertise, “describe” your consumer segments and demonstrate emotional benefits that are often difficult to articulate.
Visually demonstrating claims brings theater to messaging and helps customers and consumers quickly understand how the product solves their needs. Bring products to life. Find the visual or other sensory signals of the benefit your product offers, and use it in your communications.
5. The way work gets done is changing; leverage this shift for competitive advantage.
“Early retirement”, “downsizing”, and other large-company employment practices have resulted in a growing talent pool of very experienced, creative people who are ready, willing, and more than able to help others innovate, or to innovate themselves. Leverage this open talent economy and new tools for flexible, frugal, fast development. The free agent workforce gives you access to expertise, skills and experience you may not have in-house. It can also provide temporary capacity, when “all hands on-deck” are required for time-sensitive implementation.
Some of the biggest innovation threats come from creative, nimble individuals and smaller companies who embrace experimentation and look outside their four walls for ideas and for resources they lack. They recognize the potential of tapping into new talent, co-mingling internal/external resources, and combining the best of big company expertise/discipline with small company agility. It's now easier than ever to bring in subject matter experts on an as-needed basis to rapidly address specific issues, participate in ideation sessions, overcome roadblocks, and/or fill knowledge gaps. This ability to “bolt on and off” expertise is enabled by an increasingly large pool of highly experienced, qualified, and creative talent that enjoys the flexibility of interim or specific project-based engagements.
If you haven’t yet, we urge you to read this year’s blog posts. They might just spark an idea that will set you on the path to success in 2017. And resolve in the new year to carve out time to let inspiration happen. As Graham Simms and Don Bisset, both members of the P&G Victor Mills Society, noted, if you want to generate more "aha" moments, you need to walk away from the problem – literally. Give yourself time to think and use your imagination. Surround yourself with information, read it, and let the pieces distill in your head until BAM! the moment of discovery occurs.
From everyone at YourEncore, we wish you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. We look forward to working with you in 2017.