Innovation is NOT a process

Managing Director of Spring Design Partners, Meghan Labot, had the pleasure of presenting recently at Beverage Forum 2017 in Chicago. It was a great gathering of beverage industry leaders. Many of the presentations focused on the changes the industry is facing as a result of new consumer behaviors, needs and demands.

There is no doubt that the world is changing rapidly and many brands, across every category, are struggling to figure out how to respond. Innovation to drive change is now a necessity, as everything from where purchases are made to how consumers engage with brands is evolving. In her keynote address, CEO of Pepsi Indra Nooyi, discussed the magnitude of the changes the industry is facing and the importance of innovation to lay a path to the future. She spoke of her desire to one day see 9% of Pepsi’s growth come from innovation. Perhaps this speaks to the importance of innovation. But upon further contemplation, there seems to be a fundamental flaw with this objective that speaks to a larger problem that many organizations are facing. Growth from innovation assumes that innovation is a product that can be sold to consumers and thus fuel growth. This assumption, we believe, is what is preventing many large corporations from truly innovating and addressing the changes that are happening across the consumer landscape. Innovation can be so much more than a product and this assumption is what is holding us back.

In her presentation as a part of the panel discussion, “The Road to New Product Development,” Meghan spoke of the need to think beyond the liquid and the package when we think about innovation for the beverage industry. So many other categories are facing similar challenges with regard to retail and the consumer, and there are companies that have found success in adopting new methods of going to market that fundamentally change the way consumers engage with the brand. These types of opportunities will never be explored if we continue to think of innovation as solely a product play. How do we break free of a focus on product and think beyond the tangible?

Innovation is a culture

Part of the challenge preventing many big organizations from adopting a new approach to innovation, is that they neglect to see innovation as a culture. Spend any time with an entrepreneur and you will quickly see that “innovation” is not a process they adopt, but how they think 24/7. At their core, entrepreneurs are innovators. The difference is that an entrepreneur exists in a constant state of innovative thinking, versus turning on the innovation process when a problem or opportunity arises. Embracing failures, iterating ideas, problem-first ideas, launch to learn, and taking risks are all qualities that define the entrepreneurial mindset and a culture of innovation. Process can’t change the way people think. Innovation needs to be adopted as a culture where all employees embrace the belief system and live the mindset. Adopting the mindset that innovation needs to permeate every aspect of your business, and not be thought of as a “process,” will allow for the type of new thinking that our new economy requires.